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The Physicians' Desk Reference (PDR) is a commercially published compilation of manufacturers' prescribing information (package insert) on prescription drugs, updated annually. While designed to provide physicians with the full legally mandated information relevant to writing prescriptions (just as its name suggests), it is widely available in libraries and bookstores, widely used by other medical specialists, and in significant part valuable to consumers. It is financially supported in part by pharmaceutical manufacturing corporations which create drugs listed within its pages.
Since the late 20th century, a consumer edition has been offered at a much reduced price. Electronic editions are available on CD-ROM and the World Wide Web to subscribers. In 1984, Paul C. Kranz and Michael Grondin travelled to Oradell, New Jersey, and presented to Medical Economics (then-publisher of the PDR) a prototype developed by Grondin on a TI 99/4A computer of how a digital copy of the PDR would work and benefit clinicians. The idea originally conceived by Kranz was well received by the president and vice-president of IT and an agreement was struck to investigate. The result was the PDR on CD-ROM.
The main edition is usable by determined consumers in conjunction with a medical dictionary. Many practicing physicians receive free copies of the PDR and are willing to give a patient a previous year's edition when they receive their new one but a recent edition generally differs from the current one by the absence of the drugs introduced during the course of the intervening year.
The 2011 version is the 65th edition, and has information on over 1,116 of the most commonly prescribed drugs.
The PDR material contained includes:
There are several versions and related volumes:
Originally distributed as a promotional item, the PDR has come under recent scrutiny with the lack of reporting of updated and accurate drug dosages along with adverse drug effects. Often dosage information can be taken from phase 1 trial information where clinical drug information is incomplete, resulting in higher PDR-recommended dosages than therapeutically effective dosages for many medications. And since most of the information is taken from drug data sheets generated by drug manufacturers, it is more likely to not include drug studies reporting the worst side-effect and adverse effect data. This is opposed to evidence-based medicine or clinical reviewed material which examines all such data but is not contained within the PDR.
The PDR has also been criticized for its being paid for by the various pharmaceutical manufacturers that present mediciations within its pages. This criticism stems from the lack of special interest disclosure and the potential for guiding medical recommendations apart from evidence-based medicine The lack of medical editorial capacity within the PDR which is standard in the review of all scientific literature by informed scientific peers has also been criticized.
While proponents may argue that the controversies with the PDR may seem insignificant, critics allege that in fact, most physicians and pharmacists rely on it in a bound, online or PDA version for drug dosaging and the lack of transparency in its formation most certainly leads to adverse patient outcomes.