Towards a Consistent and Scientifically Accurate Drug Ontology.


Our use case for comparative effectiveness research requires an ontology of drugs that enables querying National Drug Codes (NDCs) by active ingredient, mechanism of action, physiological effect, and therapeutic class of the drug products they represent. We conducted an ontological analysis of drugs from the realist perspective, and evaluated existing drug terminology, ontology, and database artifacts from (1) the technical perspective, (2) the perspective of pharmacology and medical science (3) the perspective of description logic semantics (if they were available in Web Ontology Language or OWL), and (4) the perspective of our realism-based analysis of the domain. No existing resource was sufficient. Therefore, we built the Drug Ontology (DrOn) in OWL, which we populated with NDCs and other classes from RxNorm using only content created by the National Library of Medicine. We also built an application that uses DrOn to query for NDCs as outlined above, available at: The application uses an OWL-based description logic reasoner to execute end-user queries. DrOn is available at

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Hogan WR, Hanna J, Joseph E, Brochhausen M. (2013). Towards a Consistent and Scientifically Accurate Drug Ontology. CEUR workshop proceedings, (1060)