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NATIONAL `900' NUMBER TO DISPENSE INFORMATION ABOUT PRESCRIPTIONS

Medical Economics Data will start a national "900" telephone hotline service concerning prescription drugs next month.

Information about drugs will be available by dialing 1-900-988-5151. Research shows that such information is needed as about 50 percent of medications are taken incorrectly.The company, which publishes the Physicians' Desk Reference, says the phone service can be used as a reminder service when a patient's pharmacist and physician aren't available. Operators will have information on the 200 most widely used prescription drugs, which represent nearly 75 percent of annual prescription sales in the country.

Calls will cost $1.50 per minute. To use the line, callers must have a touch-tone telephone and the name of their medicine. After dialing the 900-number, a caller then presses in the first five letters of the drug name. The caller will then hear a three-to-four minute recorded message about the medication, its typical dosage, common side effects and interactions with other drugs.