New Free Online Course Helps Clinicians Make Better Prescribing Decisions

January 26, 2009

Improving their patients' experience with prescription drugs is the purpose of a new online course for physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and medical students, called SmartPrescribe.

 The course was developed by Wake Forest University School of Medicine and the Northwest Area Health Education Center of the North Carolina Area Health Education Centers Program.

 The course is designed to help prescribers sort through the confusing pharmaceutical messages that are now bombarding clinicians and consumers. And from early indications, the course is meeting its objectives.

 SmartPrescribe ( is a free, online educational curriculum designed to help clinicians optimize their prescribing. Through a series of five convenient lessons developed by academic, noncommercial experts, prescribers can hone their ability to assess the drug-related information that they receive in their practices.

 The SmartPrescribe format is intended to fit easily into busy schedules by allowing the clinicians to complete the lessons at their own pace.

 Upon finishing the curriculum, they will be better positioned to evaluate information from multiple sources to make treatment decisions for patients based on the most credible scientific evidence available.

 SmartPrescribe can help clinicians to:
--Distinguish good drug studies from not-so-good drug studies.
--Understand problems and recent improvements in FDA regulation of new drugs.
--Learn about drug company marketing strategies.
--Assess how much they are influenced by pharmaceutical marketing and learn ways to avoid it.
--Determine if they are prescribing dangerous combinations of drugs.

 “Based on early usage and comments by physicians, it appears that SmartPrescribe is achieving its goal of increasing providers’ knowledge in this critical area, enabling them to make more informed prescribing decisions,” said Curt Furberg, M.D., Ph.D., professor of public health sciences and leader of  the project. “More than 90 percent of those who submitted evaluations reported that their educational needs were met and that they found the material interesting and effective.”

 Funding for this and 27 other projects around the country came from a settlement between a subsidiary of Pfizer Inc. and the attorneys general of 50 states and the District of Columbia, as a result of allegations that the company conducted an unlawful marketing campaign for the prescription drug Neurontin that violated state consumer-protection laws.

 Furberg is nationally recognized as a drug safety expert and has served on the FDA Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory Committee. Other faculty who developed lessons for the project were David Miller Jr., M.D., David Bowton, M.D., Kaycee Sink, M.D., Hal Atkinson, M.D., and Roger Anderson, Ph.D.

 The School of Medicine designates this educational activity for a maximum of three AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)TM. Physicians should only claim credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.


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