The staple drug dosage reference in the UK is the British National Formulary. This app provides up to date accurate dosing information along with indications, contraindications and a range of other features useful to physicians.

First DataBank have recently released a new application, FIRSTLight, which at first glance appears to be in direct competition with the BNF. FIRSTLight is designed to offer healthcare professionals instant access to reliable medicines information wherever they are. Developers Black Pear Software have developed an intuitive user interface which they believe could save a minimum of 15 minutes per clinician per day.

Finding information related to specific medicine is accomplished using either the search function or a contextual menu browser. The search function can be used when the exact name of the medicine is known although one major drawback is that it cannot identify classes of drugs such as corticosteroid. Finding information, therefore, is significantly easier using the contextual browser.


Selecting this contextual browser presents the user with a wide range of categories which can be explored further individually. It was considerably easier and quicker to find information related to individual medicines this way. There is also a bookmark feature which can be used to save medicines regularly prescribed to a list quickly accessible from the start screen.


Once a medicine has been selected, the user is presented with a decent range of essential drug information. Specific features of FIRSTLight allow the user to see how, where and when not to use a medication including ingredients, indications, doses, routes and administration advice. Also provided are details on when to avoid using a medication, information about allergies and safety of use with other concurrent conditions, drugs and food.


Generally speaking, the application was straightforward to use and the information clinically relevant. The strength of any app used in clinical decision making is based on its sources; FIRSTLight accesses its content from First DataBank which is renowned for providing up to date drug information. This up-to-date content is downloaded to the device when the application is launched although, unfortunately, this means that this cannot be used at all without initial internet availability. This is highly likely to cause issues in areas of weak/no reception.


Price: $7.99 (£5.49) although this only allows one month’s access at which point the app will stop updating itself with the latest medicine information. Further access can be purchased for 1 month at £3.99 or 6 months at £19.99. These will autorepeat until canceled. There is also an iPad version which can share the same subscription although this app costs $9.99.


  • Content downloaded to device for easy offline access (still requires internet connection for functionality)
  • Contextual browser ensures medicine information is found rapidly
  • Detail supplied with each medicine is concise and informative covering all the essential aspects


  • Search function is only useful if exact name of drug is known. Can’t search for classes of drugs
  • No offline mode, meaning no information can be found unless there is an internet connection present.

Overall Rating:

  • FIRSTLight is a useful resource for UK healthcare professionals who require detailed information regarding medicines available for the UK market.
  • Whether or not it is used for dosing information is likely to depend on individual hospital prescribing policies.
  • Regardless of this, FIRSTLight is a useful resource for those who need up to date drug information although it remains to be seen if it can topple the BNF as the first choice for pharmacology information.

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