Drug databases missing from data.gov


The Food and Drug Administration maintains 11 crucial drug databases available to the public on the agency website. However, if you tried to look them up on Data.gov, the administration’s flagship site for organizing government data, you wouldn’t have any luck finding them.

The databases listed include this one, drugs@FDA, the go-to place to search for background information on prescription drugs approved for sale in this country. For newer drugs, it contains links to scientific documents used by the agency in determining whether the drug is safe and effective. (The database contains many gaps though, as we reported here; you won’t find background information on nine of the 25 most prescribed drugs in the nation, most of them older drugs approved before 1998.)

There is also this database on “adverse events,” which contains information reported voluntarily on deaths, injuries, or other problems with drugs and medical devices already on the market. There is this one, the “orange book,” on generics that can be substituted for name brand drugs (the agency actually lists this particular database twice), and another giving information about inactive ingredients contained in drugs. Some of these databases are offered in downloadable formats, others exist solely as searches on the FDA website.

When asked why these databases are not available on Data.gov, an FDA spokesperson, Karen Mahoney, explained in an email that the agency had been required, under the Open Government Directive, only to post new data sets. Mahoney added that the Sunlight Foundation “may request that Drugs@FDA be linked, but that might take awhile to accomplish. We would have to work out a plan to support it before we could promise this.”

Although the Open Government Directive charged agencies to find new datasets, unavailable previously, to register on Data.gov, the website is also designed to be a repository of all government data, as stated on its “about” page: “As a priority Open Government Initiative for President Obama’s administration, Data.gov increases the ability of the public to easily find, download, and use datasets that are generated and held by the Federal Government.”

Meanwhile, over the course of a few hours, the Sunlight Foundation added links to all 11 of these databases to our National Data Catalog, where they can be found here.

This post is part of a series identifying government data that are not collected on Data.gov which we are trying to make available at nationaldatacatalog.com