If you want to find out about alternative therapies, you have excellent sources at the Natural Health Encyclopedia and ConsumerLab . But what if you are trying to check out a mainstream drug or treatment for diabetes like Anodyne Therapy for neuropathy? Beyond my blog entry, where can you check it out?
Back when I was in college, this was an awful chore. There were no websites and even the college library didn’t have any useful databases. I had to drive out to the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland, to search through volumes of its Index Medicus.
Now, however, all you have to do is go to PubMed. PubMed is a service of the National Library of Medicine that includes more than 15 million citations from MEDLINE and other life science journals for biomedical articles back to the 1950s. Most of the citations include abstracts, and often include links to full text articles and other related resources.
MEDLINE is the premier bibliographic database covering about 4,800 biomedical journals published worldwide in the fields of medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine, the health care system, and the preclinical sciences. MEDLINE is an awful acronym for a wonderful resource. It is short for another acronym, MEDlars onLINE. MEDLARS is the National Library of Medicine’s Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System.
PubMed is probably the best of several gateways or front-ends to MEDLINE. As I indicated a few years ago in my review of MEDLINE gateways I thought that Medscape’s gateway was easier to use, but you have to register each time and it lacks some important features that PubMed has, like links to full text articles.
Actually, PubMed is easy enough to use. It’s even easier if you start by looking at its tutorial. I’ve used PubMed for years without studying how. Big mistake. For example, I never realized that if I wanted to search for a specific article that I knew by journal, title, or author all I had to do was go to the “Single Citation Matcher” in the menu at the left of each PubMed page.
If instead you want to find all the research on Anodyne Therapy that I mentioned above, all you need to do is to go to the main PubMed page and type the words “anodyne therapy” (without the quotation marks) in the “for” field and then click “go.” It returns 42 citations.
The little block at the beginning of each citation tells you if there is only a citation – the block is empty – or if there is an abstract – there are three lines in the block – or there is a full text version – the block is full of lines.
For the Anodyne Therapy search, PubMed links only two full text articles (and one of them is in Spanish and requires a registration procedure that I couldn’t figure out). But in most cases the abstract will give you what you want to know.
Still, what if you want the whole article? You have at least three choices:
1. The fastest and most expensive way would be to buy the article through Medscape or another gateway to PubMed. For example, if you want to get the most recent journal article on Anodyne Therapy – the one by Dr. Prendergast – Medscape would fax it to you in one or two days for $66.50 or it would mail it to you in two to five business days for $48.50.
2. Since I can’t afford to do that regularly, I usually email or write the person that the abstract shows as the corresponding author. I often have to search through many articles that person wrote to find an email address or phone number.
3. The easiest but slowest way is usually to call or visit your local library with a printed copy of the abstract. The library can usually get the whole article in a few weeks through the wonderful interlibrary loan system we have in the U.S. Sometimes they’ve asked me how much I would be willing to pay, and I say $5, but only once has a library wanted money. Even better, I have always been able to keep the copy of the article that they make for me, unlike books that I got through interlibrary loan.
Remember that all journal articles are not created equal. Those that report on double-blind placebo-controlled studies are the most reliable. Large-scale double-blind studies are even better. But studies from several countries, including China, Japan, Russia, and Taiwan, seem to have a bias toward producing only positive results and need to be taken with a grain or two of salt.
Too difficult? Not when you consider that having diabetes means that you have to manage it yourself. That can even mean that you have to do your own research.
You can’t very well research diabetes unless you can read the professional journal articles dealing with your diabetes management questions. With an Internet connection and knowing about PubMed and MEDLINE this can be as easy for you as for your doctor.
HealthCentral published an earlier version of this article.