The FDA's New App Lets You Look Up Any Drug, Except the Fun Ones

By George Dvorsky on at

The US Food and Drug Administration has released a new mobile app that lets users search for information about any drug the agency has approved. The app is also available in the UK.

The new app is called Drugs@FDA Express, and it’s a lite version of the Drugs@FDA webpage, which has been active for several years. Using the new app, users can search for information about all the branded and generic drugs the agency has approved, including those available by prescription and those that come over-the-counter.

The Drugs@FDA Express mobile application main page.

The streamlined version allows for quick, on-demand access to basic drug information, such as the manufacturer name, approval history, labelling, mode of administration (e.g. pill, injection), available dosages, and whether or not generic or bioequivalent versions exist. This information is great for healthcare workers, but also for the average person looking to learn more about a drug they’re taking, or one they’re looking into.

“The FDA is continuously seeking ways to bring information to consumers in more accessible formats. Today, with the launch of the Drugs@FDA Express mobile app, we’re bringing the public important information about drugs in an easy-to-use, mobile format,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in a statement. “We hope that by making this important health information more easily accessible we can help empower patients and providers in making their treatment decisions.”

Frustratingly, the app doesn’t offer a lot of other information, such as details about the drug itself and its intended purpose, patient information, reviews, or possible side effects. For that, users will need to go to the full-blown version on the FDA’s website, which kind of defeats the purpose of the app in some cases. Also, the app doesn’t include dietary supplements, but that’s because those things don’t require FDA oversight.

But it is user-friendly; you can search by drug name, active ingredient, or application number. The program also displays all drugs approved by the FDA over the past seven days, while also providing a glossary and FAQ, which annoyingly takes you out of the app and into your friendly neighbourhood mobile web browser (pro tip: the FAQ is immensely more useful than the glossary). It’s not perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction—that step being on-demand access to information about medicines approved by the nation’s primary drug regulatory body.

“Consumers are embracing digital health technologies to inform everyday decisions. From fitness trackers to mobile applications tracking insulin administration, these digital tools can empower consumers with a wealth of valuable health information,” said Gottlieb. “Advancing mobile apps that inform people about their health and medical choices represents a significant public health opportunity and is a high priority for the FDA.”

Indeed, the FDA has been in tune lately with developments in digital heath, approving such products as a digital pill that lets doctors know when it was taken, and an EKG reader for the Apple Watch.

The Drugs@FDA Express mobile app is available for free via iTunes and the Google Play store. [FDA]