Medical information tailored towards consumers continues to be a growing field, and medical applications for smartphones are no exception, as can be evidenced by our previous reviews.

Drugs.com is a comprehensive and popular website devoted to providing updated information on medications, for free. Now they are trying to transition their informative website into apps.

They have two versions: Drug Guide for Consumers and Drug Guide for Healthcare Professionals. The apps are for the iOS platform, and here we review the Drug Guide for Consumers on the iPad.

So does this app fill a patient need, at least one important enough to justify an annual subscription fee?

The app’s interface is simple and clean. The home screen exemplifies that, and presents a search bar, along with FDA MedWatch Alerts to help keep consumers up-to-date.

The content is all within the app, so there is no need for an active internet connection to use the app. With updates occurring once a month, the guide does remain fairly well updated. The apps can be viewed in search, by individual drug, medications for medical conditions, and by drug class. The drug details presented are similar to the information presented on the website, or in the prescription insert.

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The Medwatch alerts show a preview of the new FDA warning. Clicking on the full text sends a link to the drug.com website with the full text of the warnings.

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As the website’s goal is to provide updated and comprehensive information about medications to consumers, the app also manages to meet that goal by inclusion of simple pharmacology explanations, indications/contraindications, and side effect profiles.

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However, the app does not even contain the multitude of features that can be accessed from the website free-of-charge. The app’s benefit of being able to access the information without an active internet connection appears to be the basis for the pricing model. The app is updated on a monthly basis, while the website is continually updated even with news stories and MedWatch Alerts.

Here is an example of the app in landscape mode, again demonstrating its nice, clean user interface.

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As anyone can imagine, this app should not replace actual medical advice and all patients should consult their physicians for concerns and questions regarding their medications. That being said, empowering patients with enough knowledge to understand and manage their health is important and this app can clearly do that.

But is there a need for a mobile app, particularly one which requires a subscription. Patients are certainly not going to access this type of information frequently – they are likely to only need it when a new medication is being started (or suggested) which is hopefully not all that often. So it seems unlikely that they would need to commit to paying this premium for mobility, which it isn’t all that clear is useful to them.

Prices:

  • $24.99 for the consumer version
  • $39.99 for healthcare professional version (not reviewed here)
  • Both pricing schemes are for one-year subscriptions only

Likes:

  • Easy-to-use and simple format
  • Comprehensive guide with basic information quickly accessible
  • Medwatch alerts

Dislikes:

  • True to their calling, there is limited information on disease states
  • Compared to the website, the variety of information presented is limited
  • Updated per month (which seems slow) in the realm of medical news and information

Conclusion:

  • While the app we reviewed is a solid product, it would be really difficult to encourage subscribing to these plans for a patient.

Find the app on iTunes here.