I remember seeing heavy, hardcover-bound Physicians’ Desk Reference (PDR) books — from decades past — growing up. The $80+ tome is still being published, despite being surpassed by numerous medication references like ePocrates and Medscape.

The PDR recently revamped their app, and is available for free on Android and iOS. Here, we review the Android version.

It’s all about medications

There’s a few things to like about the app. It’s all about the medications. None of the extra directories, CME education, news articles, or other features found in apps like Medscape or ePocrates are there to get in the way of medication information on startup.

This does simplify the user interface quite a bit, and is underscored by their start-up help screens.

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The drug comparison tool is useful for comparing side effects, dosages, pregnancy warnings, and more among medications of your choosing. Simply select multiple medications that you want to compare, then swipe among them to compare them. One issue is that viewing information, like side effects, adverse warnings, etc. all can be jumbled into one long paragraph that’s difficult to read or skim, particularly for those medications that require a lot of screen scrolling.

Another issue: this long paragraph — and any other information — cannot be copied and pasted as text. Attempting to share the information only leads to the app sharing a web URL to its own website, not the actual information at all.

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The app allows you to check drug interactions. You can also identify pills by marking, shape, and color. The app allows you to save medications as well.

Issues with the app

There are quite a few issues that this app has. For such a simple application, it stores an awful lot of data. The Medscape app clocks in at 20.1 MB — with the drug reference and interactions downloaded for offline use — whereas mobilePDR takes up almost triple the space at 50.9 MB.

At times, odd error messages will appear. Here’s one in which I just registered, but it’s telling me that the “function” (i.e. the app) doesn’t work if offline. Clearly, I have a working Internet connection, as shown at the top-right corner status bar.


This same error pops up when you try to use pretty much anything that doesn’t involve looking up a medication’s reference. There’s no drug interaction checking or pill identification that can be performed offline — or when on airplane mode — thus rendering the app nearly useless when in a hospital environment or in an airplane.

For whatever reason, the app checks for updates when I’m trying to get information on medications. This delayed my ability to access information, which is something I would not want to encounter during a busy clinic or hospital rounding.


And, not to nitpick, but one weakness is perhaps the app’s simplicity itself (which I had previously mentioned as a strength). The mobilePDR is yet another app to add to your device — and another company to give your personal information to. As is apparent when you read its Privacy policy and its Terms and Conditions, the company makes it clear that they will use your information to subsidize the app. If you’re going to give your personal information away for an app, you might as well give it to an app that will do more for you (I’m thinking Medscape here). If you want a simple, “meds only” app then Micromedex would be a better way to go; the $2.99 annual cost is worth avoiding the bugs that seem to currently be plaguing the PDR app.
For that reason, it’s difficult to fully recommend this app aside from the price tag of free — with the caveat that registration is required. It might be useful to have this app on the phone. But given some of its performance issues, size issues, and lack of comprehensive offline support, I would go with some of the other more comprehensive, mature reference apps.

  • Price
    • Free with registration
    • Medication comparison tool helps compare side effects, dosages, pregnancy warnings, and more among medications of your choosing.
    • Contains pill identification checking, drug interactions.
    • Searching feels easy, by brand name, generic, and medication class.
  • Dislikes


    • The price tag is free, with the caveat that user information — according to the terms — is used to subsidize the app with requests for the user to fill out surveys and other commercial offers
    • A lot of functions do not work offline, and some bugs are still present in the app
    • Sharing, copying, and pasting information is not possible.
  • Overall

    With the exception of its medication comparison tool, nothing much different from other reference apps on the market. Difficult to fully recommend given its issues with offline support.

  • Overall Score
  • User Interface

    Misuses Android UI conventions, like using the Navigation Drawer icon for Settings. Also, can’t copy, paste, or share information, or use the app offline.

  • Multimedia Usage

    Most of the app is text, with little imagery or videos.

  • Price

    You can’t beat free price tag, but you provide personal information to register and access the app, and the company makes it clear they will use the information to help subsidize the app.

  • Real World Applicability

    Useful information, along with a unique comparison tool of medications.

  • Available for DownloadAndroidiPhoneiPadWindows