On a typical day, a dozen pharmacists, physicians, and other health care practitioners will call the Drug Information Center (DIC) in Spokane for some help.
“The questions run from easy ones we can answer right away to ones where three days from now we still don’t have an answer,” says Danial E. Baker, DIC director and a pharmacy professor at WSU Spokane.
The center, which was started in 1973 and is primarily funded by grants and contracts, also serves as a teaching laboratory for up to four pharmacy students at a time. Students in their final year of pharmacy school spend six weeks in the center becoming familiar with sources of drug information and helping answer questions.
Demand for the center’s services continues to grow.
“There are some days when the phone doesn’t stop ringing,” says Baker.
Most of those who call the center are pharmacists working in Washington, Baker says. The center charges a fee to insurance companies and also receives donations from some of its users and the pharmaceutical industry. It is not involved with any requests related to medical malpractice.
Callers want help identifying a drug a customer has brought to them, Baker says, or they want validation of something they heard on the news, or they want to know if a patient’s symptoms could be drug related.
They also may want to know what the FDA is doing with particular drugs, Baker says. The job requires him to be aware of the latest information about prescription drugs, and he starts his day monitoring a variety of news outlets for drug reports.
Baker and the center’s assistant director, Terri Levien, actually produce some of the information used nationally about various medications or drug interactions.
Both write a minimum of five new-drug evaluations each month for Facts & Comparisons, a drug information publishing company based in St. Louis, Missouri.
Baker and Levien are the editor and assistant editor, respectively, of a new pharmacy professional journal, Advances in Pharmacy.