I teach classes on doing literature searches and how to filter out bad information compared to good information on the web. There are a lot of great intellectual resources out there such as the national library of medicine and pubmed (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ & http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/). I warn people against relying too much on resources such as Wikipedia. I am also always looking for resources that are reputable to help give people different insights.
I was curious to find an informational aspect to the website on the Mayo Clinic site. So I poked around it for a while and was disappointed. It was not so much that it lacked depth enough, because it was very incomplete. Or that it catered to non technical people, which is fine, but importantly it was down right wrong. So wrong on some points that I emailed them to point out their errors.
Their site incorrectly stated that creatine was synonymous with beta guanidinopropionic acid (GPA). I have previously blogged that nutritional supplements that contain GPA should not be taken (http://www.josephfclark.com/blog/?p=129) and tried to advise the Mayo Clinic of this. My email conversation with the information people at May is reproduced below without their permission.
Sent: Friday, April 15, 2011 9:30 PM
Question or Comment: Beta-GPA is not creatine. You list several molecules here that are not creatine. Plus the info page says that creatine is stored in the muscle. That is not true it is used in muscle, not stored. There are multiple factual problems with the write up on creatine.
My message is short and does not offer a fix. But I did call attention to their mistakes. I was hoping that a fairly reputable institution like the Mayo Clinic might want to check their facts before putting things out there. Quite frankly if someone took GPA thinking it was creatine it could be a problem for them as discussed in my blog referenced above. To give Mayo credit, they responded very quickly with the following.
Dear Joseph; Thank you for your e-mail. We value your feedback and appreciate you taking the time to share your comments with us. The information found in our drug guide is from the United States Pharmacopeia, which we license from Micromedex, Inc. The information contained in the Micromedex products is intended as an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatment. It is not a substitute for a medical exam, nor does it replace the need for services provided by medical professionals. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking any prescription or over-the-counter drugs (including any herbal medicines or supplements) or following any treatment or regimen. Only your doctor or pharmacist can provide you with advice on what is safe and effective for you. The use of the Micromedex products is at your sole risk. These products are provided “AS IS” and “as available” for use, without warranties of any kind, either express or implied. Micromedex makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy, reliability, timeliness, usefulness or completeness of any of the information contained in the products. Additionally, MICROMEDEX MAKES NO REPRESENTATION OR WARRANTIES AS TO THE OPINIONS OR OTHER SERVICE DATA YOU MAY ACCESS, DOWNLOAD OR USE AS A RESULT OF USE OF THE MICROMEDEX PRODUCTS. ALL IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE OR USE ARE HEREBY EXCLUDED. Micromedex does not assume any responsibility or risk for your use of the Micromedex products.
Mayo Clinic Online Services
So their response tells me two things: First they do not care if the put out incorrect information and only bother with a form letter response, suggesting this may happen a lot. Second, they are so disinterested in putting out correct information that they license some cheap resource and stamp their name on it (Micromedex products). I hope thier disclaimer makes them feel better because it will not help people using their site’s information.
My goal with this blog is not to slam Mayo or Micromedex but to remind people, and my students, that what is out on the web needs to be examined carefully and often can be dangerously inadequate. Regarding the Mayo Clinic apparently not caring how wrong their information is, that is just sad.