ONLINE Magazine
Table of Contents Previous Issues Subscribe Now!
IDdb3: Pharmaceutical Intelligence for the Third Millennium
by Elaine N. Cheeseman, Ph.D.

Are you looking for many types of drug pipeline information in one place? Interested in locating current pharmaceutical patent, company, or conference information? Do you need quick and easy access to this information? If you have answered yes to any of these questions, IDdb (Investigational Drugs Database) from Current Drugs Ltd. is an important source to consider. A new version of IDdb, IDdb3, provides access to this information, as well as access to additional sources of related information using a similar interface. The focus of this database is pharmaceutical information from discovery (early disclosures of potential new drugs) to recently launched drugs.

IDdb3 is a Web-based database of many types of information relevant to the pharmaceutical industry ( Its mission is to be "the world's foremost, integrated intelligence service—essential for everyone in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sector." ( html) It contains drug summaries, patent information, company profiles, a pharmaceutical alerting service, retrospective conference information, and optional links to other sources of related information. 


IDdb3 is not the only drug pipeline database available on the market [1-3]. Other drug pipeline databases include: R&D Insight by Adis International (www., R&D Focus by IMS Health (, Pharmaprojects by PJB (, and Ensemble by Prous Science ( These databases focus primarily on summaries of drugs in the pipeline. Some of these companies also produce related products with a similar focus to the other types of information included in IDdb. For example, IMS Health also produces Pharmaceutical Company Profiles (which gives detailed information on pharmaceutical companies) and Patents International (which focuses on pharmaceutical patents). Still other companies have products with a similar focus to portions of IDdb. For example, Derwent Information (www. makes available Derwent World Drug Alerts, a patent, literature, and conference alerting product, which is available in various formats. 

IDdb3 can be used both by information professionals and end-users, depending on the information philosophy and strategy within an organization. In either case, it is recommended that all users be given training to maximize the benefits of their use of the database.


IDdb3 began in 1991 as Current Patents' Fast Alert. It later evolved to include more types of information and was renamed Current Drugs' Investigational Drugs Database (IDdb). It has come a long way since its early beginnings. Current Drugs Ltd. is part of the Current Science Group with the main office located in London and the U.S. office located in Philadelphia. From a technical point of view, IDdb3 has evolved by making use of new technologies as they became available, developing from a client server-based database to a Web-based database. The producer has considered and, when possible, incorporated new technologies that enhance the database and thus help fulfill its mission. From a content point of view, it has expanded to include many types of information, such as access to related types of information via the IDdb3 interface (DrugNet sources).

As with any database, it is important to understand the types of information that the database provides (Sources and Types of Information), the access methods for retrieving information of interest (Retrieving Information), and the displays that are available (Displaying the Information).

IDdb3 is only available directly from Current Drugs, either by Internet or intranet access. Some of the other drug pipeline databases are available in a variety of ways: on CD-ROM, Lotus Notes, the Internet/intranet, or an online host such as Dialog or STN.


The information in IDdb3 is collected from a variety of sources that includes newswires, press releases, industry newsletters, analyst reports, online databases, patents, scientific meetings, scientific literature, company communications, and commissioned reports. Current Drugs has established an Advisory Board made up of subject experts from industry and/or academia who oversee content issues within IDdb. 

IDdb3 is organized into the following types of information that will be discussed in more detail:

  • Daily fast alerting of key items added to the database (Alerts)
  • Summaries of drugs in the pipeline (Drug Reports)
  • Company summaries (Company Reports)
  • Retrospective conference summaries (Meeting Reports)
  • Literature references on drugs covered in the database (Reference Reports)
  • Patent summaries in key therapeutic areas (Patent Reports/PatentWeb)
  • Access to other pharmaceutically related databases (DrugNet)
  • Features to specify personal preferences and details (Personal)
Records are hyperlinked with one another. For example, a Drug Report may be linked to Company Reports, Meeting Reports, Reference Reports, and Patent Reports. From a Company Report, summary graphs are linked to tables of drugs (SmartSheets), which in turn are linked to individual Drug Reports.


As a new feature in IDdb3, Alerts are summaries of key items, added tothe database on a daily basis, selected by Current Drugs' editorial staff. These are categorized under thefollowing headings: Drugs, Companies,Meetings, Patents, and Literature. Drug Alerts are automatic- ally visible when you enter the database. While the Alerts provide summaries of new items, they are linked to the corresponding full records (either new or updated records) for more details. 

Drug Reports 

Drug Reports are summaries of drugs in development from preclinical to launched drugs. As the drug progresses through the pipeline, the records are updated to include the new information. Launched drugs remain in the database, but they are not the focus of the database. Drugs for which no new information has been retrieved in the past 18 months are categorized as "No Development Reported" and also remain in the database. As of June 2001, there were approximately 17,500 Drug Reports.

Drug records include both thesaurus fields and free text fields. The thesaurus fields include: Drug Name,Developing Company, Highest Phase, Action, Indication, and Technologies (if applicable). Free text and tabular fields include the following: Summary,Development Status, Commercial Data,Chemical Structure, Literature Evaluation, Scientific Data (including sections entitled Biology, Chemistry, and Clinical), and References. The size of Drug Reports can vary from very short for newly disclosed drugs to very long for drugs which have progressed far in development.

Company Reports

Company Reports give a detailed discussion of the company. They can include the following types of information (when available): IDdb3 profile; Financial Performance (table of Total Net Income, Revenue, and R&D Expenses); Product Profiles; Contact Information; Directors; and Subsidiary and Associated Companies. Product Profiles are graphs of Investigational Drugs by Therapeutic Categories, Patents by Therapeutic Categories, and Drugs by State of Development. Each column is linked on-the-fly to the component information. Company Reports are available for both parent companies and subsidiary companies. As of June 2001, there were approximately 14,800 Company Reports.

Meeting Reports/Meetings Library

Since meetings or conferences are often the first place disclosures are made about very-early-stage drugs, this section is of great interest to researchers. Approximately 400 meetings are covered annually. For 20 key international meetings, details are available the next day. These Reports summarize each of the key presentations generally with a paragraph or two. The information in these Reports is integrated into the Drug Reports. Although Meeting Reports are part of DrugNet (where it is called Meetings Library), it can be searched using either the IDdb3 or the DrugNet search options.

Reference Reports

Reference Reports are based on many types of references including scientific literature, press releases, and company communications. Literature references in the database to drugs are retrieved by Current Drugs' staff scanning the literature and searching bibliographic databases (MEDLINE and EMBASE Alerts). The records include the citation, an abstract in some cases, the IDdb3 drug record that uses the reference, and links to more information on that reference via PubMed and LitLink (the latter for intranet users only). LitLink is MDL's Server that links citations to full-text electronic documents such as electronic journals [4.]. As of June 2001, there were approximately 374,000 Reference Reports.

Patent Reports/PatentWeb

Patents and patent applications (lumped together here as patents) are selected when they have therapeutic utility as a drug for humans and specify either an indication (disease) or mechanism of action. Each patent record includes a title (original and enhanced), patent number, assignee, inventor(s), publication details, indexed fields (using Current Drugs thesaurus for Action, Indication, Technology (if applicable) and Classification), structure (a specific and a generic structure (for later records) if applicable), and an abstract, which includes a discussion of Novelty, Biology, and Chemistry. These summaries are included generally within one to three weeks of publication, depending on the patent office in question. The therapeutic areas covered include: Anti-Infectives; Biologicals & Immunologicals; Cardiovascular and Renal; Central & Peri- pheral Nervous Systems; Oncologic, Endocrine, and Metabolic; and Pulmonary, Allergy, Dermatological, & Anti-Inflammatory. Although Patent Reports are part of DrugNet (where it is called PatentWeb), it can be searched using either the IDdb3 or the DrugNet search options. As of June 2001, there were approximately 74,500 Patent Reports.


DrugNet provides access to additional sources that can be searched and viewed using an interface that is very similar to the IDdb3 search interface. These sources include: 

  • Current Patents Gazette with links to the full patents for MicroPatent subscribers 
  • Current Opinion Library: Four Current Opinion journals produced by the Current Science Group companies. One of these is entitled Current Opinion in Investigational Drugs, a consolidation of titles each with a therapeutic area focus
  • EMBASE Alert
  • PubMed Gateway *
  • PatentWeb *
  • Meeting Library *
(* = Available as part of the standard subscription)

Sources planned for in the near future include:

  • Current Trends Library
  • Cochrane Library
  • Dolphin: The Database of all Pharmaceutical Inventions 
  • Primark Extel
  • Investext Brokers Research
  • Incidence and Prevalence database
  • Newswires
  • Pharma 500 database

The Personal view allows you to customize to your personal preferences: Change your ID and password or your personal information such as your address and interests.


Information can be retrieved in the following ways:

  • Searching and/or browsing the Alerts
  • Searching using Guided Search
  • Searching using Advanced Search
  • Searching using the Quick Look-Up search box
  • Searching and/or browsing in the DrugNet sources
Searching and Browsing the Alerts

Drug Alerts for the current day are automatically visible when you enter the database. There are five types of Alerts: Drugs, Companies, Meetings, Literature, and Patents. Each type of Alert features a key Alert for the day plus a list of titles of other Alerts (with records accessible via a hypertext link). Other types of Alerts can be viewed by clicking on the desired type in the Navigator. You may want to browse information in the Alerts or create a customized Alert ("Personal" Alert). The latter can be created for the various Alert types using indexing terms or free text terms. These can be viewed within the database or by having the results sent to your email on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. The email message contains an attachment with the individual titles and entire group of the retrieved hits as hypertext links to the record in IDdb3.

Guided Search

The Guided Search facility is provided for both simple and more complex inquiries. Both update and sub- ject approaches are provided. In the update approach, you can retrieve records that are new or recently underwent a significant change. By clicking on one of the pre-established questions and specifying your definition of recent, you easily retrieve updates such as "drugs which have re-cently moved into Phase III." The option called Find Specific Things can be used to submit queries in either all types of records or specific types of records. The query entry form allows you to enter specific terms using the appropriate fields from the provided list ([ALL], [LICENSEE]), which can be combined using Boolean logic. Using this option, structures can be searched in Drug and/or Patent Records. A date limit option is provided to restrict your search to the more recent records.

Advanced Search

Using Advanced Search, you can search using combinations of IDdb3 indexing terms or indexing terms ANDed with a structure query. The types of indexing terms include: Actions, Indications, Technologies, Developer, Drugs, and Status. Lists of the indexing terms (some of which are hierarchical) are available for viewing and selection. Two options within Advanced Search include the Drugs & Patents and Drug Development Status. Although most searching would probably be done in the Drugs & Patents, a Drug Development Status is also available to find drug status requirements in specific countries, which can be linked to specific developers and/or indications. The time range of your search can be specified.

Quick Look-Up Searching

This option, which is available from the Navigator at most points within IDdb3, allows you to quickly locate information on a term in the drug name (or synonyms), company name, patent number, or author name fields. 

Searching and/or Browsing in DrugNet

The DrugNet sources can be searched individually using an interface similar to the Find Specific Things option in the Guided Search. As in the Guided Search, a list of fields that can be searched in each source is available. Some of the DrugNet databases also allow browsing such as PatentWeb and the Current Opinion journals. This feature lets you scan all the available entries without doing a search.


After a search has been completed, a list of hits is displayed for most of the search options. The hits are presented in a standardized format, which first gives a summary of the types of records and number of hits followed by the titles of the hits (which are hypertext links) arranged by type of record. For the Drug and Patent Records, the option of viewing the hits as SmartSheets is given. 

SmartSheets are tables using pre-determined column headings with information from the retrieved patentand/or drug records. Summary SmartSheets include the column headings of Drug, Patent, Action, Structure, Technology, Indication, Status, and Company. Full SmartSheets for Drug Records add to that the status by developer in specific countries. Both types of SmartSheets have active links to the full records for drug, patent, and company information. The SmartSheet information can be saved by copying and pasting into anExcel spreadsheet, although the links to the full record are not preserved and chemical structures are not transferred to Excel. An export to BizInt Pharmaceutical SmartCharts will be available shortly.

The intranet version allows users to add comments or links to records that can be viewed only by users who have access to that intranet version.


Current Drugs has announced plansfor several future enhancements which include:

  • Competitor Analysis—new analytical tools for analyzing search results
  • Business Development—a view that indicates products and/or services available for licensing or sale
  • Administration—tools for site administrators to manage and monitor use within their organization

Current Drugs is using the "named user" approach. However, in addition to the normal type of named user with guaranteed access, it also offers a second type of "non-guaranteed access" for named users. Users with non-guaranteed access who have not used IDdb3 in the past month will be "competing" for an access slot with other users in the organization. This model allows access for a larger number of individuals, since many may not use the system frequently. Users have their own IDs and passwords since there are personalizable features such as personal alerts and preferences.


Various forms of Help are available, including a Tutorial, the Miniguide, and the Guide. The Tutorial is an overview of IDdb3 features using Macromedia's Flash technology. The Miniguide is a short how-to manual. Both are available by drilling down from the entry page. The Guide is a context-sensitive help option within IDdb3. It is available on search input screens and gives guidance on how to formulate queries. Included with the Guide is a list of the field and operator options available for that specific type of search.


Since IDdb3 is only available via Internet and intranet access using Current Drugs' database design, all the technical issues rest on the producers' shoulders, rather than on an online host. Help Desk support is available from its main office in London, a North American Help Desk in New Jersey, and a local support office in Japan. 

At times, the database does experience problems. It can be slow or unresponsive. In my experience, the Help Desk staff has been helpful in addressing these problems. Sometimes the fix is rebooting the system, something that can be done quickly. Other reported situations require more attention. Since it has been released in July 2000, many technical fixes have been made so that it generally functions in a user-friendly way. 

IDdb3 contains much relevant and timely information for pharmaceutical R&D in one location. The new version has new and useful features not previously available. On an ongoing basis, IDdb3 plans to incorporate additional features and tools as they become technically feasible. If you need pharmaceutical information, such as that on drugs in the pipeline, recent pharmaceutical patent information, or recent conference information, consider this exciting source.



[1.] Parkar, F., et al. "Analysis of Drug Pipeline Databases for Non-Clinical Scientists." Database 22 No 3 (June-July, 1999): pp.40-44.

[2.] Mullen, A., et al. "Comparison of Some Major Information Resources in Pharmaceutical Competitor Tracking." Drug Discovery Today. 2 No 5 (May, 1997): pp.179-186. 

[3.] Mullen, A., et al. "Assessment, from an Industrial User Perspective, of Some Major Competitor Information Files on Pharmaceutical Development Products." Journal of Information Science. 23 No 1 (1997): pp.9-23. 

[4.] For more information on LitLink, please see contact MDL Information Systems or its Web site (


The author would like to thank her colleagues and Current Drugs Ltd. staff for their help with this article. She specifically would like to thank Penny Young, Peter McMeekin, Alison Tipping, and the Help Desk staff of Current Drugs Ltd.

Product at a Glance

IDdb3: Investigational Drugs Database 3

Current Drugs Ltd. 
Middlesex House
34-42 Cleveland St.
London W1P 6LB, U.K.
+44 (0)20 7636 7994

Runs on Internet only (either Internet Explorer 4.0 or 5.0, or Netscape 4.5 or higher); can be adapted to intranets. Pricing is by seat, and options include access for numbers of named users: Up to 1, 10, 50, 100, 150, 300, 1,000, etc.

Elaine Cheeseman ( is senior information analyst for SmithKlineBeecham Pharmaceutical Company. Comments? Email letters to the editor to
[Contents] [ONLINE Home] [Subscribe] [Top] [Information Today, Inc.]