openFDA: More than 3 million adverse drug event reports at your fingertips

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openFDA

The Food and Drug Administration has publicly released a huge amount of data on drug side effects that it hopes will lead to new research.  Under its open FDA project (https://open.fda.gov/index.html)   , the agency has released more than 3 million reports on adverse drug events and medication errors recorded between 2004 and 2013. These kinds of reports were only available before through Freedom of Information Act requests.

OpenFDA utilizes a search-based Application to collect large amounts of  publicly available data, offering people the ability to search through text within that data, ranking results much like a search using Google would do. This method then allows them a large amount of flexibility to determine what types of data they would like to search and how they would like to present that data to others.

The initiative is the result of extensive research to identify information that is in recurrent demand and is traditionally fairly difficult to use. Based on this research, the FDA decided to phase in openFDA beginning with an initial pilot program involving the millions of reports of drug adverse events and medication errors that have been submitted to the FDA from 2004 to 2013. Eventually the agency plans to release more reports on recalls and labeling, as well as other information it thinks can be useful.  The move to make medical data more transparent isn’t limited to the FDA. Several drug makers working with the National Institutes of Health have begun releasing clinical trial data in a limited fashion to help find new uses for old drugs.

Two applications have already been rolled out since openFDA launched this month.  Social Health Insights, an Indiana-based business, used the openFDA API as a simple search engine that lets people search for adverse drug effects by date and location. Researchers can also specify one or multiple drug names or adverse reactions, and results can be broken down by gender.  The other app was developed by Epidemico, a Boston startup that looks at adverse drug reactions reported in social media outlets and matches them to official reports

Without a doubt, it is a positive thing to be able to have easier access to adverse events data.  Hopefully in the future, pharmacists, clinicians, and consumers will all benefit from innovations created off of this information.   Click here to learn more about openFDA:    https://open.fda.gov/update/ten-things-to-know-about-adverse-events/

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