Searching for credible information on various drugs can be a daunting task both for professionals and consumers. Web searches often bring up a confusing assortment of information generally inundated with sites that want to sell you something. Just released this month is DrugBank - the worlds largest online database from the University of Alberta, Departments of Computing Science, Biological Science and the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences. It is described as an "interactive one-stop-shop" that offers detailed drug information for patients, researchers and health-care professionals.
The database began as teaching tool developed by Dr David Wishart for pharmacy students at the University of Alberta. Wanting to develop one source that offers a broad scope of information, Wishart and his team created DrugBank, the world's largest and most complete resource on drugs and drug targets. DrugBank contains detailed chemical, pharmaceutical, medical and molecular biological information on more than 3000 drug targets and 4100 approved or experimental drugs products.
The database allows pharmacists, physicians, drug researchers and the general public to find out just about everything they need to know about a drug or a drug target. It is the only database of its kind. DrugBank provides more than 80 data fields for each drug including brand names, chemical structures, protein and DNA sequences, links to relevant Internet sites, prescription information and detailed patient information.
As patients take more active roles in their own care, they can access detailed information without searching through scientific literature to find it. For example, a search for "acetaminophen," on the site, will reveal 197 brand names for products and 26 brand name mixtures that contain it. DrugBank will also tell you how acetaminophen works, its side effects, how it's absorbed, how it's metabolized and how to take it.
For biologists and chemists, DrugBank supports a wide range of sophisticated searches and queries. Combined with DrugBank's 2D and 3D visualization software, these tools allow scientists to easily search for new drug targets, to compare drug structures, to study drug mechanisms and to discover new drug leads.
DrugBank is also the first database that brings the latest data from the Human Genome Project together with detailed chemical information about drugs and drug products. Much of this information was originaly only in books and journals which made the assembly of DrugBank difficult and time-consuming. More than a dozen textbooks, several hundred journal articles, nearly 30 different electronic databases and at least 20 in-house or web-based programs were individually searched, accessed, compared, written or run over the course of four years.
DrugBank is also playing an important role in another scientific endeavor--The Human Metabolome Project. As lead researcher on this Genome Canada effort, Wishart's goal is to guide the first group in the world to complete the human metabolome. That aim includes a database of all the metabolites in body fluids, such as urine and serum. In addition to the usual chemicals that the body makes (metabolites) many prescription drugs (xenobiotics) are also found in these body fluids. Understanding how drugs and their metabolites impact the body is crucial for future drug development.
DrugBank is available online as of January 1, 2006