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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Ability of online drug databases to assist in clinical decision-making with infectious disease therapies

Hyla H Polen1*, Antonia Zapantis2, Kevin A Clauson3, Jennifer Jebrock4 and Mark Paris5

Author Affiliations

1 Nova Southeastern University, College of Pharmacy, Palm Beach Gardens, USA

2 Pharmacy Practice Department, Nova Southeastern University, College of Pharmacy, Fort Lauderdale, USA

3 Pharmacy Practice Department, Nova Southeastern University, College of Pharmacy – West Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, USA

4 Broward General Medical Center and Nova Southeastern University, College of Pharmacy, Fort Lauderdale, USA

5 Infectious Disease Clinics, Palm Beach County Health Department, Delray Beach, USA

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2008, 8:153  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-8-153

Published: 6 November 2008



Infectious disease (ID) is a dynamic field with new guidelines being adopted at a rapid rate. Clinical decision support tools (CDSTs) have proven beneficial in selecting treatment options to improve outcomes. However, there is a dearth of information on the abilities of CDSTs, such as drug information databases. This study evaluated online drug information databases when answering infectious disease-specific queries.


Eight subscription drug information databases: American Hospital Formulary Service Drug Information (AHFS), Clinical Pharmacology (CP), Epocrates Online Premium (EOP), Facts & Comparisons 4.0 Online (FC), Lexi-Comp (LC), Lexi-Comp with AHFS (LC-AHFS), Micromedex (MM), and PEPID PDC (PPDC) and six freely accessible: DailyMed (DM), DIOne (DIO), Epocrates Online Free (EOF), Internet Drug Index (IDI), Johns Hopkins ABX Guide (JHAG), and Medscape Drug Reference (MDR) were evaluated for their scope (presence of an answer) and completeness (on a 3-point scale) in answering 147 infectious disease-specific questions. Questions were divided among five classifications: antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antiparasitic, and vaccination/immunization. Classifications were further divided into categories (e.g., dosage, administration, emerging resistance, synergy, and spectrum of activity). Databases were ranked based on scope and completeness scores. ANOVA and Chi-square were used to determine differences between individual databases and between subscription and free databases.


Scope scores revealed three discrete tiers of database performance: Tier 1 (82-77%), Tier 2 (73-65%) and Tier 3 (56-41%) which were significantly different from each other (p < 0.05). The top tier performers: MM (82%), MDR (81%), LC-AHFS (81%), AHFS (78%), and CP (77%) answered significantly more questions compared to other databases (p < 0.05). Top databases for completeness were: MM (97%), DM (96%), IDI (95%), and MDR (95%). Subscription databases performed better than free databases in all categories (p = 0.03). Databases suffered from 37 erroneous answers for an overall error rate of 1.8%.


Drug information databases used in ID practice as CDSTs can be valuable resources. MM, MDR, LC-AHFS, AHFS, and CP were shown to be superior in their scope and completeness of information, and MM, AHFS, and MDR provided no erroneous answers. There is room for improvement in all evaluated databases.