Embase vs MEDLINE: FAQ

Whether you’re conducting a systematic review literature search or screening literature for drug safety, Embase and MEDLINE are key databases for these workflows. However, despite their ubiquity, we regularly get asked about the difference between Embase and MEDLINE. In this post we try to answer this question and other common queries about MEDLINE and Embase. Let us know if you’ve got any other questions about Embase vs MEDLINE. 


Are Embase and MEDLINE the same?

MEDLINE and Embase are two different biomedical databases. MEDLINE is published by the National Library of Medicine in the USA. Embase is published by Elsevier.

But while they are two separate database, all of the journals available in MEDLINE can also be found in Embase. MEDLINE contains more than 22 million records from 5,600 journals, whereas Embase has over 29 million records from 8,500 journals.

Even though everything in MEDLINE can be found in Embase, each database indexes its content in a different way. This means the same search strategy can give different results when used to search MEDLINE or Embase.

This means it is wise to search both databases to ensure you’re finding all relevant results for your search (or use a database search platform that normalizes the data of all the databases it provides accesses to, providing consistent search results between databases).


What’s the difference between PubMed, MEDLINE and Embase?

The MEDLINE database is the main element of PubMed, but PubMed also provides access to other literature resources from the U.S. National Library of Medicine. As a result, PubMed has more than 32 million abstracts and citations in total. The NLM allows you to search PubMed free of charge but with a relatively limited range of features compared to dedicated literature search platforms.

Embase is a completely separate database to PubMed and MEDLINE, but it does contain all of the articles that can be found in MEDLINE. It also contains over 7 million records that cannot be accessed via MEDLINE/PubMed.


What are MEDLINE and Embase used for?

Embase and MEDLINE can be used for most types of biomedical research and searching. This can include systematic review literature searches and literature screening for pharmacovigilance.

However, because of the thesauri each database uses (Emtree for Embase and MeSH for MEDLINE), each database is slightly more specialized in a particular area. For example, Embase has more of a focus on drug names and chemical compounds, but MEDLINE has more articles that look at veterinary medicine, dentistry and nursing.

Ultimately, it makes sense to search both databases (and more ideally) to ensure you’re not missing any important results. This is where literature gateways (like Dialog) can help, as they allow you to search multiple databases at once with the same search strategy.


Is MEDLINE free to use?

MEDLINE is free to use via PubMed.gov. However, for most types of research you’ll need to search through more than one database. Searching databases separately (like MEDLINE, then Embase followed by Biosis and then ClinicalTrials.gov) can quickly become very time consuming. This is where it makes sense to use a single research platform to search multiple databases at once. This saves you time, especially if you use a platform that automatically removes duplicate references (which is a major problem when searching Embase and MEDLINE separately).


How do I access Embase?

You can access and search Embase through Dialog by selecting Embase from the dropdown list of databases within the Dialog interface.  This then allows you to search the Embase database using Dialog’s handy search features, including premade searches (hedges), medical synonyms and article deduplication.


How do I use Embase and MEDLINE on Dialog?

Using Embase and MEDLINE on Dialog is simple. No matter what database you’re searching on Dialog, you have the same easy to use interface and advanced search features (hedges, search syntax, synonyms, deduplication).

If you want to use Embase and MEDLINE on Dialog, you can use these databases alongside any other database you’re choosing to search. For example, you can search both MEDLINE and Embase along with International Pharmaceutical Abstracts, Allied and Complementary Medicine and Biosis Previews.