The Current Challenges in Adverse Event Reporting from Social Media

The Current Challenges in Adverse Event Reporting from Social Media

As social media use increases, so do the number of disease and therapeutic resource forums and communication threads. At the same time, pharmaceutical business is moving faster and vigilance legislation is getting tighter to regulate the safe use of medicine. It costs less for a company to perform pharmacovigilance than to pay the fine when not compliant. With this in mind, UBC research scientists sought to investigate the strength of Adverse Events identified via social media.  We asked, “Is there a strong enough case to support ongoing and formal monitoring of these outlets?”

A search on eight scientific and academic literature resources was conducted for studies published up to 2013.  A search was also conducted on the available international guidelines for the monitoring of the pharmacovigilance activities.

Seven articles were selected in which the authors reviewed comments posted on Facebook and Twitter. The authors were able to demonstrate the validity of extracting data from Twitter posts, such as potential drug effects. The authors were also successful in detecting signals of adverse drug reactions (ADRs) from content in social media contributed by health consumers. It was concluded that analysis of website data can inform ADRs. Social media is important in communicating this type of pharmacovigilance information and for assessing consumer behavior and risk perception.

Recent years have seen an explosion in the use of social media. While in the past there were no clear guidelines on monitoring pharmacovigilance activities on social media websites,  the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently issued proposed guidelines for the pharmaceutical and medical device industries for posting information on social media networks and correcting misinformation posted by others. The proposal would require companies to post both the benefits and the main risks associated with a product, potentially with a hyperlink taking the reader directly to a more detailed list of risks. Definite challenges exist in reporting on social media discussion, however it’s both exciting and reassuring to know that regulatory advances are being made in an area with such opportunity for drug safety and risk monitoring.

The full abstract poster can be viewed here. Contact us to discuss pharmacovigilance activities, both online and traditional, for your product.

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