Which mobile drug reference tool (or “app”) should I use?

Micromedex, Medscape, Epocrates, Lexicomp

Icons for major drug reference apps: Micromedex, Medscape, Epocrates, Lexicomp

Trick question! You should have *multiple* apps, especially since so many are free, and different databases have different strong points. For better or worse, you also get different information from each, especially regarding drug interactions, so it can be helpful to get a 3rd or 4th opinion if you’re unsure of the significance of a potential interaction.

In this article, I will cover which tools I think are essential, which I think is “the best” (if you can afford it or have institutional access!), and some pros/cons of each of these excellent apps.  My “Essential” and “Best” picks may surprise you!

Two Essential (also free!) Apps

Micromedex app Micromedex: Off the bat, I’m going to say that everyone with an iPhone or Android device should have the Micromedex mobile app. It’s free, has a very authoritative/trusted database, and has a subtle but killer feature for learning: if you start typing a brand name, the brand and generic names on the same line in search results!

Mobile link for Micromedex Micromedex makes a separate app for drug interactions . Although this usually has a subscription cost (currently “on sale” for $9.99/year), you can get it for *free* if your institution has access to Micromedex online. From your institution’s Micromedex page, click the MOBILE link (see red arrow) for access information.

Medscape Medscape is an excellent drug reference that also includes all of what used to be emedicine (which I would have killed to have on a mobile device in medical school): a comprehensive, frequently-updated compendium of background/diagnosis/treatment of virtually every medical condition. It’s what I imagine Epocrates Essentials would be if I were willing to pay for it. Its drug-interaction functionality is built in as well. iPhone, Android, and Blackberry apps are available; other devices are supported via a nicely-formatted mobile browser interface (also free).

The “Best” app (and how you may get it for free)

Lexicomp For years, LexiComp (Lexi-Drugs & Lexi-Interact) has been my preferred drug database, through Palm, Windows Mobile, Android, and iPhone platforms.  It is a fantastic and authoritative product, with helpfully organized side effect (“Adverse Reactions”) lists,  generally superior mechanism of action detail, and unique information like patient education as well as “psychiatric effects.” It includes drug tables (eg benzodiazepines). Its separate drug interaction app has great discussion and references for many interactions.

Notably, a trusted pharmacist tells me that LexiComp tends to over-call P450 substrate/inhibitor listings (consistent with what I find when I compare LexiComp to other sources). I still consider source of high-sensitivity (if not high-specificity) information about potential pathways and inhibition/induction.

There are two ways you may get access to LexiComp for free:

  1. You may have access to LexiComp on the web! If your institution has UpToDate, you can just enter a medication name there, and within the top couple results you will see the LexiComp result titled “[Rx name]: Drug Information.” Note that visiting UpToDate/Lexicomp on a mobile browser yields a nice, mobile-friendly interface.You also The search results will also include a link to “Launch Lexi-Interact Drug Interactions Program” (which can also be accessed from the “Drug Interactions” section of every monograph). The mobile browser version does not include this.
  2. A 30 day trial is available, which gives you access to many Lexi databases! I recommend at least the following: drug database, drug interactions module (“Interact”), and lab & diagnostic procedures. You can also get 5MCC (although I’d generally use Medscape instead these days)

What about pricing? Lexi-Drugs alone runs $75/year (or $50/year if you pre-pay for 3 years). Consider the Lexi-Drugs & Lexi-Interact combination, which runs $115/year (or $77/year if you pre-pay for 3 years).

Nice to Have (not essential)

Epocrates Epocrates is the most well-known mobile drug reference. I enjoyed having its pixely ancestor on my Handspring Visor in medical school. I still like having it as a backup/alternative source, but it’s a bit sparse in areas for my tastes (disclaimer: I haven’t used their latest version)…


As all of these apps have a free version or at least a free trial, I recommend trying them out, and doing a few searches across all the apps to get a feel for their interfaces and the quality/organization of the information they present. Comments are welcome below!

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