BACKGROUND: Combination of different agents is widely used in clinic to combat complex diseases with improved therapy and reduced side effects. However, the identification of effective drug combinations remains a challenging task due to the huge number of possible combinations among candidate drugs that makes it impractical to screen putative combinations. RESULTS: In this work, we construct a drug cocktail network using all the known effective drug combinations extracted from the Drug Combination Database (DCDB), and propose a network-based approach to investigate drug combinations. Our results show that the agents in an effective combination tend to have more similar therapeutic effects and share more interaction partners. Based on our observations, we further develop a statistical approach termed as DCPred (Drug Combination Predictor) to predict possible drug combinations by exploiting the topological features of the drug cocktail network. Validating on the known drug combinations, DCPred achieves the overall AUC (Area Under the receiver operating characteristic Curve) score of 0.92, indicating the predictive power of our proposed approach. CONCLUSIONS: The drug cocktail network constructed in this work provides useful insights into the underlying rules of effective drug combinations and offer important clues to accelerate the future discovery of new drug combinations.