Free and Low Cost Medical Articles

Heard about a new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and want to read about the original research? Read a health or medical news item and want to read the original article? Need to go to the source about a new surgical procedure? Medical articles, written by physicians and scientists just might be the answer.**

Most  medical articles are quite technically written and are published in journals which require paid subscriptions (even tho’ they are online!). Examples of medical journals include the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and the Lancet.

Medical journals (a type of scholarly journals) differ from popular magazines (as Psychology Today) in appearance, audience, and purpose. Duke University has a great comparison chart on the differences between scholarly journals and popular magazines.

A few great places to get free and low cost medical articles

  • Libraries Many public libraries have at least some medical journals. Most college, university, and medical school libraries (and all receiving some state funding) are open to the public and provide some reference services to the general public. These academic libraries vary in the number of subscribed medical journals.
    Some hospital libraries are also open to the public.It is best to call ahead and ask a reference librarian to see if the library is open to the public, if they have the article you need, and if you can use their computers and printers. Ask about interlibrary loan from any library where you have borrowing privileges. Your library will try to get any article they do not have from another library (there usually is a charge, upwards of $11.00 or more  an article).
  • PubMed Central provides access to free articles submitted by authors and publishers. Some articles are free immediately when they are published, others are free on a delayed basis (ranging from a few months to a year). Check the PubMed Central home page for additional information. PubMed Central is a service of the US National Institutes of Health.

Individual users of NLM’s PubMed and the NLM Gateway do not have access to DOCLINE, but they can make use of its services by ordering documents through Loansome Doc, a document ordering service. All PubMed or NLM Gateway users ordering documents must identify a DOCLINE library or libraries that are willing to serve them (Ordering Library). The health professional performs a PubMed or NLM Gateway search, reviews the citations retrieved, and identifies specific documents to be ordered. Orders are sent to DOCLINE from either PubMed or the NLM Gateway. The NLM PubMed server manages all document-ordering activities.

LoansomeDoc is for people who are not affiliated with a health or medical institution that has a library. (If your institution has a library, just ask a librarian about ordering articles through interlibrary loan). To register for LoansomeDoc, contact the closest medical library.
They can help you set up an account, including payments for articles. You should be able
receive most, if not all, ordered articles via email.

  • DeepDyve is an online rental service for scientific, medical, technical, and scholarly articles.  The About page outlines how it works. An online article about this service may be found here.
  • Contact the Author Email, fax, or write the author. Most authors are happy to provide a free copy of their articles if asked. Cannot locate an address or fax number? Ask a reference librarian!
  • Contact the Publisher An increasing number of publishers are providing free copies of articles to patients, caregivers, and others who do not subscribe to their journals but only need a specific article for personal use.
    If the publisher does not advertise this free service, consider contacting them and requesting a specific article.  Need help contacting a publisher? Again, ask a reference librarian!

Some publishers which provide free or low cost articles (via PatientInform)

Elsevier Patient Research provides single copies of articles for $4.95. Elsevier publishes over 2,000 journals.

AACR’s (American Association for Cancer Research) policy for free patient access to medical articles—“If You Need It, You Can Read It”—can be found under Information for Readers/Subscribers.

The Endocrine Society For Patients page provides information on how to obtain free articles from its six endocrine research journals.



**When a good summary of an article will do, check out the resources at Summaries for Patients” help patients and others understand medical studies and guidelines