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Elsevier Introduces Emscopes Database for Drug Information
Posted On February 19, 2007
Elsevier (, one of the largest producers of medical and scientific literature, has a new addition to its continually growing world of information offerings. Emscopes ( is a new product literature database (PLD) released in February 2007 with the catch phrase "Straight to the Point." This is not a product to be confused with EMBASE; it is a more powerful system directed at the specific needs of subscribing clients in pharmaceutical and biotech companies. The database is billed as "surprisingly affordable," considering the custom programming and services Emscopes is designed to deliver. Emscopes combines tailored content selected for each customer, with Elsevier's new drug-specific indexing process, and a simple search interface.

The new product was more than a year in the making, utilizing resources and people from more than 20 firms worldwide, including Organon and Schering-Plough. There were three main priorities on which the system developers focused:

  • Quick to use with no special search knowledge needed
  • Complete coverage of the drugs
  • Full text summaries for speed—with the option to click through to the full text

If the company's product literature and early firsthand feedback is to be believed, Elsevier has delivered.

The overarching purpose of the database is to save time. Rather than having end users spend a few hours searching EMBASE, MEDLINE, or any of the clinical literature text in full, this system is designed to pull it all into one simple search. This is a literature database where the resulting articles have been first culled and then sorted into an output level that even more impatient scientists can absorb. Elsevier says that its d rug-specific indexing goes deep into the full text of every article to extract detailed information for each drug, such as adverse drug reactions, drug comparisons, administration routes, and dosage.

Senior product manager Tessa Sterkenburg explained Elsevier's thinking behind the technology: "We have a team of people reading the full text to extract relevant drug information. Now that this is embedded in our regular indexing, we can process new records very quickly to give the utmost currency, and we can offer the highest precision indexing cost-effectively. "

The developers at Emscopes have constructed a system that searches EMBASE and other information sources chosen by the client, such as ScienceDirect articles. All the user needs to do is type in a drug name and then limit or filter by precreated drill-down menus. Multiple terms may be selected for each drug. There are also several main buckets such as adverse drug reactions, indications, and administration route to assist the average end user with easy-to-browse functionality.

No previous training in advanced searching techniques is required. Expert users including many librarians prefer the opportunity to narrow by publication date, by study type, and perhaps even by the age of the patients within the clinical trials or studies. The Advanced Search tab provides such options. The open URL hyperlinks to the original documents and articles providing the information have also been included in the results of each search. Power users accustomed to the zippy sports car will find the destination faster than expected.

Company logos on the top of each page help users understand that questions should be directed internally for advice, not externally—assuming questions arise. This is not likely with the guided search features. It's more likely that compliments will be forthcoming.

People should not mistake this for a drug pipeline database. The system has not been designed to cross the mechanism of action with a therapeutic indication and then only with those drugs in Phase 3 trials and oh, just those licensed to a select few firms. Users will need to retain their traditional pipeline databases for drugs not yet launched.

This system is for scientific articles for drugs and the resulting facts. Dosage amounts, units, and schedules through a particular route of administration are available—users can then determine if there are interactions with other drugs or food. Questions that can be answered include "Can Drug X be taken with milk or orange juice?" or, perhaps, "Is it appropriate to prescribe Drug A if the patient is already taking Drug B?"

For those who are in competitive intelligence or have the need to track a certain drug over time, email alerts can be created for specific users. These are not as detailed, perhaps, as the searches that generated the initial results. They are designed to track new research literature.

This user would love to see how Emscopes compares to systems already owned and in place by Elsevier. This would include Scopus and MD Consult, two powerful systems in their own right. My theory is that Emscopes fits best for drugs, Scopus for general clinical literature, and MD Consult for the physician needing targeted drug research alongside patient literature. It would be interesting to see if future generations of the product allow subscribers of several databases to click through seamlessly from one to the other.

Elsevier has big plans to showcase its new product at upcoming information conferences. These include the Pharmaceutical & Health Technology SLA meeting in Boston (March 2007), the Medical Library Association meeting in Philadelphia (May 2007), SLA in Denver (June 2007), and as far out as International Pharmaceutical Federation Congress 2007 in China (September 2007).

Tara Breton is a librarian for a healthcare consulting company.

Email Tara Breton
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