NIH Press Release
National Library of Medicine

Thursday, June 26, 1997

Bob Mehnert /
Kathy Gardner
(301) 496-6308

Vice President Gore to Launch Free Access to World's Largest Source
of Published Medical Information on World Wide Web

Consumers and Health Professionals Worldwide to Have Fingertip
Access to Cutting-Edge Research

(Bethesda, MD -- June 26, 1997) -- The National Library of Medicine, a part of the National Institutes of Health, will today launch a new service to provide all Americans free access to MEDLINE -- the world's most extensive collection of published medical information -- over the World Wide Web. Prior to this announcement, users have had to register and pay to search MEDLINE and other NLM databases. This free service will be demonstrated by Vice President Albert Gore at a press briefing to be hosted by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) on Thursday, June 26, 1997 at 10:30 a.m. in Room 192 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building, United States Senate.

In announcing the new free service, Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala said, "American citizens now have at their fingertips both the scientific information gathered by the National Library of Medicine, as represented in MEDLINE, and the extensive consumer health information in Healthfinder, the service for the public that we announced in April. We are committed to using the new technology, including the World Wide Web and the Internet, to provide health information to the public."

"The National Library of Medicine's debut of free Web-based searching could not be more timely," said NLM Director Donald A.B. Lindberg, M.D. "The health care delivery landscape is changing. Citizens are increasingly turning to the Web as a source of information to improve their daily lives, including their health. So, it is vital that they, and the health professionals who serve them, have access to the most current and credible medical information."

"Medical breakthroughs are happening so rapidly that I believe health care professionals and consumers alike should be able to tap into the most recent medical information," added pioneering heart surgeon Michael E. DeBakey, M.D., chair of NLM's Board of Regents. "Such information is often the critical link in reaching the correct diagnosis, resulting in lives saved, unnecessary treatment avoided, and hospitalization reduced. Even with all our modern advances in health care, I still consider good information to be the best medicine." Dr. DeBakey emphasized this same point this past spring in testimony before a Capitol Hill appropriations subcommittee.

Harold Varmus, M.D., Director of the National Institutes of Health, applauded free access and observed it would have the additional benefit of improving the nation's scientific literacy. "The press briefing will demonstrate how the public, including high school and college science classes, will be able to search through MEDLINE and the Human Gene Map, another one of NLM's Web-based databases, and learn about inherited diseases that are located on our chromosomes -- in terms that the public can understand. No longer will the public be left in the dark as this fascinating and historic human genome research process unfolds."

"The medical library community is pleased that this vast treasure trove of medical knowledge will be opened up to the general public," said Rachael K. Anderson, President of the Medical Library Association. "Patients and their families are regularly turning to health sciences librarians to find reliable health information. Free MEDLINE means that we can now provide consumers with better access to the quality information they need, and librarians can help them to tap into the full power of this authoritative source."

To demonstrate the value this new service will have for consumers and health professionals, the press briefing will bring together a sampling of Americans whose stories are compelling examples of how access to MEDLINE and other sources of medical information from the Library positively touched their lives. Among those who will provide written or oral statements are:

The web address for the National Library of Medicine is: On June 26, this site will display free MEDLINE.

Press will also be invited to view a demonstration of "PubMed" -- a new free NLM online service that will allow the public to establish direct web links between MEDLINE abstracts and the publishers of the full-text articles. This new service is the result of a collaboration between the NLM and major sc ience publishers such as the New England Journal of Medicine, Science, Journal of Biological Chemistry, and The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.