InContext: curation of medical context for drug indications

Kody Moodley*, Linda Rieswijk, Tudor I Oprea, Michel Dumontier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Accurate and precise information about the therapeutic uses (indications) of a drug is essential for applications in drug repurposing and precision medicine. Leading online drug resources such as DrugCentral and DrugBank provide rich information about various properties of drugs, including their indications. However, because indications in such databases are often partly automatically mined, some may prove to be inaccurate or imprecise. Particularly challenging for text mining methods is the task of distinguishing between general disease mentions in drug product labels and actual indications for the drug. For this, the qualifying medical context of the disease mentions in the text should be studied. Some examples include contraindications, co-prescribed drugs and target patient qualifications. No existing indication curation efforts attempt to capture such information in a precise way. Here we fill this gap by presenting a novel curation protocol for extracting indications and machine processable annotations of contextual information about the therapeutic use of a drug. We implemented the protocol on a reference set of FDA-approved drug product labels on the DailyMed website to curate indications for 150 anti-cancer and cardiovascular drugs. The resulting corpus - InContext - focuses on anti-cancer and cardiovascular drugs because of the heightened societal interest in cancer and heart disease. In order to understand how InContext relates with existing reputable drug indication databases, we analysed it's overlap with a state-of-the-art indications database - LabeledIn - as well as a reputable online drug compendium - DrugCentral. We found that 40% of indications sampled from DrugCentral (and 23% from LabeledIn) respectively, could not be accounted for in InContext. This raises questions about the veracity of indications not appearing in InContext. The additional contextual information curated by InContext about disease mentions in drug SPLs provides a foundation for more precise, structured and formal representations of knowledge related to drug therapeutic use, in order to increase accuracy and agreement of drug indication extraction methods for in silico drug repurposing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of biomedical semantics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 12 Feb 2021


  • Ontologies
  • Drug repurposing
  • Drug indications
  • Semantic similarity
  • Data quality

Cite this