The National Library of Medicine (NLM) not only launched a redesigned PubMed interface, but also another service (though still in beta): Pillbox beta for “rapid identification and reliable information.
The web address is http://pillbox.nlm.nih.gov/
Pillbox was developed to aid in the identification of unknown solid dosage pharmaceuticals. The system combines high-resolution images of tablets and capsules with FDA-approved appearance information (imprint, shape, color, size and scoring) to enable users to visually search for and identify an unknown solid dosage pharmaceutical. (see About-section).
This system is designed for use by emergency physicians, first responders, other health care providers, Poison Control Center staff, and concerned citizens.
David Hale from the National Library of Medicine (NLM), argued in his short presentation at the Medicine 2.0 congress that better medication identification can potentially prevent 6000 to 8000 deaths each year due to adverse events. David explained that while FDA data might be available in the public domain, there is a need to make the information more usable.
The interface is very clear and intuitive. You can choose the visual identification/exploration or the HTML screen reader compatible option to search.
Below I did a quick search with the latter option. (To show you the search options) I searched for 9mm white pills with the imprint West-ward 254, that can be broken in two and I get one result: a hydrocortisone pill (HC). That is neat. Only the imprint would have done, I guess, but without imprint there remain a lot of white pills to choose from.
The visual identification option is even easier to use.
As of September 2009 only 779 of the 5,693 records have images, but as the project of the NLM and FDA proceeds in making large-scale photos of prescription medications, verified by manufacturers, more images will be available.
Once a solid dosage form has been identified, additional information is provided, including brand/generic name, ingredients, and the National Drug File identification number. Links are provided to NLM drug information resources, such as FDA-approved label information (DailyMed) and the Drug Information Portal, which searches all NLM drug information resources (About).
The pills are sometimes difficult to discern. Perhaps because of my screen, and/or because white pills (on a black background) all look alike. The Figure left is 50% of the original (enlarged) picture: it is barely recognizable. So, at least in case of white pills, you do depend on correctly identified imprints.
Furthermore pillbox will not be suitable to identify “illicit drugs”, foreign drugs and pharmacy compounded dosage forms which are not in FDA databases.” For this an “open source” Pillbox where everyone can collaborate (globally) to develop a rapid data rich pill identification system would be the solution (David Hale).
It should be stresses that the PillBox is still in beta-phase. Feedback is welcomed at email@example.com.
Finally a presentation of David Hale at the US Pharmacopeia’s Annual Scientific Meeting.
and an interview with him during the Medicine 2.0 congress.
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- Pillbox at US Pharmacopeia’s Annual Scientific Meeting (slideshare.net)
- A New Kind Of Pillbox (cenblog.org)