Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Pharmacy Drug Information Teaching Lab Unusual in the Country

DIC People

From left are Danial Baker, director of the Drug Information Center, postgraduate resident Kalvin Stoker, fourth-year students Jared Cavanaugh and Kiranjot Brar, and Terri Levien, assistant director of the Drug Information Center.

By Lorraine Nelson

The Drug Information Center on the second floor of the Health Sciences Building looks like a typical windowless office with cubicles and computers, but what happens inside is rather extraordinary and benefits medical practitioners throughout the country.

Physicians and even some members of the general public know they can phone or email questions to the Drug Information Center (DIC) and get answers, but they probably are unaware that a good amount of the information available nationally about recently released drugs or drugs in late-stage clinical trials starts right here on this campus with a critical review written at the DIC.

The two College of Pharmacy faculty in charge of the center—Danial Baker and Terri Levien—operate it as a teaching laboratory for final-year pharmacy students and for newly graduated pharmacists who want more training in drug information review and who sign on after graduation for a year-long residency there. The resident(s) receive a stipend and assist in the creation of the drug reviews and oversee the daily activities of the students.

Teaching Lab For Students

“Most of our requests for information come from healthcare providers based in Washington, but a few come from the public and outside the state,” said Baker, DIC director. “The students have to decide ‘what is the real question’ that is being asked, then use various resources and literature to locate pertinent information, and finally synthesize the information for a potential answer. Those answers are reviewed with a member of our staff for completeness and additional educational opportunities before we provide an answer back.”

Some of the more common questions that come into the center are:

  • Someone found a capsule that looks like this. What is it?
  • What kind of drug therapy would be best for a patient diagnosed with this medical condition?
  • Do these three drugs interact with each other and how?
  • There is a new drug out for this condition. Do you know anything about it?
  • I heard about a new product for diabetes on TV, does it really work?

The students are also responsible for the initial draft of the DIC’s monthly electronic newsletter “Highlights of FDA Activities” that is then edited by Levien, assistant director of the DIC. They also must attend a weekly critical review of literature discussion.

The lab also provides detailed studies each month on five new drugs or late-stage clinical trial drugs to The Formulary Monograph Service—a national subscription-based service—that then sends those papers through various teams of people before providing the new drug reviews to hospitals, insurance companies and other subscribers. The DIC has provided all the drug monographs used by The Formulary Monograph Service since 1989 and celebrated a milestone in September when it exceeded the completion of 2,100 drug monographs.

The questions posed directly from the public to the DIC are generally answered as a free service and learning opportunity for the students, Baker said, while the new drug reviews for The Formulary Monograph Service and related work for its parent company, Wolters Kluwer, and the international nonprofit Ascension Health Alliance are supported in part by contracts.

Baker and Terri Levien also oversee the College’s Continuing Education program for pharmacists and are peer-reviewers for a number of professional journals and publications.

Recently, Baker was appointed to three national committees and is now serving on the U.S. Pharmacopeia’s 25-member experts committee responsible for reviewing, among other things, the health care quality standards used for drug formularies as part of the Affordable Care Act. He also serves on subcommittees of the USP expert panel that establishes which drugs are included in the model guidelines used by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid to evaluate the drug formularies offered to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries; development of the new USP Drug Classification System that may be become the model guideline for all outpatient drug formularies in the near future; and drug safety-related issues. In addition, he is a consultant to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s advisory committee on arthritis.

The DIC was established by the College of Pharmacy in Pullman in 1973 and transferred to Spokane in 1988. Baker has been with the DIC since 1983 and Levien joined in 1990.