Using description logics to evaluate the consistency of drug-class membership relations in NDF-RT

J Biomed Semantics. 2015 Mar 28;6:13. doi: 10.1186/s13326-015-0007-3. eCollection 2015.


Background: The NDF-RT (National Drug File Reference Terminology) is an ontology, which describes drugs and their properties and supports computerized physician order entry systems. NDF-RT's classes are mostly specified using only necessary conditions and lack sufficient conditions, making its use limited until recently, when asserted drug-class relations were added. The addition of these asserted drug-class relations presents an opportunity to compare them with drug-class relations that can be inferred using the properties of drugs and drug classes in NDF-RT.

Methods: We enriched NDF-RT's drug-classes with sufficient conditions, added property equivalences, and then used an OWL reasoner to infer drug-class membership relations. We compared the inferred class relations to the recently added asserted relations derived from FDA Structured Product Labels.

Results: The inferred and asserted relations only match in about 50% of the cases, due to incompleteness of the drug descriptions and quality issues in the class definitions.

Conclusions: This investigation quantifies and categorizes the disparities between asserted and inferred drug-class relations and illustrates issues with class definitions and drug descriptions. In addition, it serves as an example of the benefits DL can add to ontology development and evaluation.

Keywords: Description logics; National drug file-reference terminology; Ontology; Quality assurance.