About Pillbox

The Pillbox website was developed to aid in the identification of unknown pills. It combines images of pills with appearance and other information to enable users to visually search for and identify oral solid dosage for medications.

The Pillbox Story

Pillbox, an initiative of the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, provides data and images for prescription, over-the-counter, homeopathic, and veterinary oral solid dosage medications (pills) marketed in the United States. This data set contains information about pills such as how they look, their active and inactive ingredients, and many other criteria.

A major function of the initiative was the development of a data process which ingests the source data and produces an easy-to-use, "pill-focused" dataset.

Pillbox's primary data source (FDA drug labels) is complex and does not organize information based on individual pills. Additionally, there are very few pill images available in the source data. The Pillbox initiative has focused on restructuring the source data, incorporating data from other related data sets, and creating a library of pill images.

Lessons Learned

In order to create value, data must be structured in a way that is relevant to the groups which need it and for the tasks they will perform. This may be different from the form in which it is collected and used by a government agency.

It is critical to work with communities, prior to the release of data, in specifying its structure and developing systems that enable open access and promote application development.

Engaging communities and promoting participation in the processes leading up to the release of data increases adoption and utilization and leads to a virtuous cycle where even competing groups can work together to solve challenges.