Brittany R. Heer, MLIS
Health Sciences Librarian
Butler University Libraries
LactMed is a freely available, peer-reviewed drug information database focusing on the effects of drugs and chemicals found in breast milk during lactation. Substance levels in breast milk and infant blood are available as well as adverse effects on a nursing infant. Alternative drugs are also presented in individual entries. LactMed is appropriate for pharmacists, physicians, and clinicians seeking the effects of drugs on lactating individuals and their nursing infants. Health sciences librarians will also have a great interest in this database.
As a free drug information resource focusing on the effects of drugs and chemicals found in breast milk during lactation, LactMed fills a crucial gap in drug information access. It is accessed via the NCBI Bookshelf, which provides free online access to health sciences and healthcare book titles.
The primary author of LactMed is Philip O. Anderson, PharmD, FASHP, a health sciences clinical professor of pharmacy at the University of California San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. The assistant author is Jason Sauberan, PharmD, a health sciences assistant clinical professor of pharmacy at the UCSD Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Additional editors and peer reviewers can be found here.
Features / Functionality
LactMed has a simple search function that allows users to search by drug, chemical, drug class, CAS number, or subject term. Since LactMed is technically a book, it does not allow for a complex or advanced search option. However, its simplicity makes it approachable and easy for all users of the database. Additionally, it contains links to PubChem for detailed drug and chemical information. It also links to PubMed for similar articles for further research.
LactMed stands out due to its simple and accessible search interface, allowing users of varying skill levels to access crucial information about drugs and lactation. Further, as it is a resource provided by the National Library of Medicine, it is of high quality and freely available to the public; therefore, no subscription is required. This is especially important for researchers and the general public who may lack access to a more sophisticated subscription drug information database.
While the simple design of LactMed is indeed a positive, its simplicity can potentially frustrate advanced searchers and clinicians. Quite often, search results yield accurate information based on entered search terms but do not make it clear that a search term does indeed connect to the results. The user will need to frequently visit PubChem to confirm synonyms or alternative drug names. As this weakness is not evident, the user must be made aware of this extra step in verification.
Beyond its simple interface, LactMed excels in the accessibility of its articles and clinical guidance. Each drug reviewed contains a chemical structure, summary of use during lactation, drug levels (both maternal and infant), effects on breastfed infants, effects on lactation and breast milk, alternative drugs to consider when appropriate, references, and substance information (name, CAS number, and drug class). Additionally, the last revision date of the topic is visible at the top of each article.
LactMed is a free resource provided by the National Library of Medicine and accessed through the NCBI Bookshelf feature.
Any healthcare or academic institution that frequently accesses drug and chemical information will want to highlight LactMed as a quality resource, especially as it is freely available and of high quality.
LactMed is an excellent drug information database for any healthcare or academic institution to highlight for its users, whether they are pharmacists, physicians, clinicians, researchers, instructors, librarians, students, or the general public. While other similar proprietary databases may offer richer content, knowing where to access free information is essential for both practitioners and those supporting consumer health research. Health sciences and hospital librarians will want to be familiar with free quality drug information databases like LactMed and promote them in online pathfinders for both visibility and accessibility.