Epocrates ships pharmacy app for iPhone

For years, physicians and other healthcare professionals have relied on the Epocrates family of reference tools to access therapeutic information on their Windows Mobile and Palm OS devices. Now Epocrates Rx brings the company’s extensive drug database to iPhone users, and it’s an excellent start.

Epocrates Rx offers comprehensive information about pharmaceuticals–dosing, FDA warnings, contraindications, and pricing. After installing the application, you set up an account on Epocrates’ Web site and then enter your user name and password on the iPhone. Registration is free and takes only a few minutes. Epocrates Rx’s default Drug Search screen lets you look for medications by their generic or trade name. If you’re restricted to prescribing from a specific drug formulary, you can choose one by tapping a button next to the search box, and you can customize the formulary list.

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As soon as you begin to type, Epocrates Rx shows all the matching entries in its 3,300-item database. Tap one, and a page with comprehensive information about the drug, including adult and pediatric dosing, black box warnings from the FDA, pharmacology, contraindications, adverse reactions, and pricing, appears. You can even enter notes for your own reference.

Epocrates Rx also makes it easy to check for harmful drug combinations by adding medications to an interaction checklist. Tapping the Interactions button at the bottom of the screen shows potential problems with each pair of medications.

Epocrates Rx can help doctors identify drugs with helpful visuals.

Epocrates Rx can help you manage patients who bring pills in unlabeled containers by identifying drugs based on their physical characteristics, including shape, color, and markings. You need an active Internet connection to view drug pictures, but that makes the application much smaller than it would be otherwise.

As good as it is, Epocrates Rx isn’t perfect: for example, I couldn’t find Thyrogen in its database, nor are iodinated contrast media or other diagnostic materials, which are treated as medications by The Joint Commission, listed. Epocrates also doesn’t offer its subscription-based references–Epocrates Rx Pro, Epocrates Essentials, or Epocrates Essentials Deluxe–for the iPhone yet, although the company says that more products are on the way. Until then, Epocrates Rx is indispensable for anyone who needs drug information on the go.

Epocrates Rx is compatible with any iPhone or iPod touch running the iPhone 2.0 software update.

Franklin N. Tessler is a university professor and radiologist who lives in Birmingham, Alabama.

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