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NLM Announces Release of Pill Images

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) announces the release of about 1,800 new high quality images of solid oral dosage medications. Images were taken at high resolution, but are also available in smaller sizes if desired for certain applications. Researchers and product developers may obtain the images and accompanying metadata via an applications programming interface (API) at // NLM also makes the images available for interactive Web searching via its Pillbox and RxNav sites.

"This project builds on NLM's long history of research and development in image processing," explained NLM Director Donald A.B. Lindberg, MD. "If history is any guide, many innovators will find interesting applications for this body of images and put them to creative use right away. The new image collection could speed the development of algorithms to identify pills based on photos taken on mobile devices, for example. We will continue to expand the collection," Dr. Lindberg continued, "encouraging manufacturers to send us more products to be imaged."

Of the roughly 1,800 pills photographed to date, approximately 400 were provided by manufacturers. The others were purchased through a licensed Maryland pharmacy. NLM estimates that the images cover about 15 percent of the more than 10,000 solid dosage forms of the 4,075 human prescription medications on the US market, and a higher percentage of frequently prescribed medications.

The FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) provided provide technical advice, funding and in-kind support for the development of the photography standards for these pills, the establishment of an imaging facility and the performance of some image capture.

Computational Photography Project for Pill Identification (C3PI) project 


With its Computational Photography Project for Pill Identification (C3PI) and Pillbox projects, NLM computer scientists have developed standards for photography of pills, including camera angle, lighting and the digital data processing often found in digital cameras.

The National Library of Medicine is the world's largest library of the health sciences and a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NLM collects, organizes and makes available biomedical science information to scientists, health professionals and the public.

The FDA, an agency within the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nations food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

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