The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has kicked off a consultation over whether to place its database of medicines information online for open access to medical staff and the public.

Currently information is only available electronically for a relatively few number of medicines and, as the Agency points out, what can be found on the Internet is not necessarily comprehensive or up to date.

And yet the MHRA holds a database of Summaries of Products Characteristics (SPCs) and patient information leaflets (PILs) for all products it has licensed, which could provide the medical community, the pharmaceutical industry and patients with a convenient one-stop shop for all medicines information authorised for use in the country.

According to the regulator, making this resource available to all “would offer the public the ability to read and compare drug information before prescription or purchase, and offer healthcare professionals a dependable and trusted SPCs catalogue”, and it also fits nicely with its remit of providing accurate, timely and authoritative information about medicines.

The Agency has therefore set up an online discussion forum – which is open until March 8 - to gather opinion on its proposals to put its database online, and, if its proceeds with its plans, how the site might look/function to be of most use.

A spokesperson for the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry told PharmaTimes UK News that it is currently consulting with its members on the MHRA's proposal “but in general we welcome any opportunities which increase access to information about medicine”.