U.K. watchdog may turn to social media for side-effect reports

Would docs tweet more adverse-event reports? The U.K.'s medicines regulator may soon find out. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency is considering opening up its side-effects reports to a variety of social media, including Twitter and Facebook. And it's looking at adding smartphone apps to the reporting mix, too.

The potential changes to the MHRA's adverse event reporting follow a successful initiative allowing general practitioners to report side effects via their own medical-practice IT systems. The new channel is expected to increase reports by 60% year-over-year. Mick Foy, MHRA's risk management chief, said the agency got 2,237 reports in 2010, and so far, the new reporting system has delivered more than 1,000 alone, with another 500 expected by year's end.

The MHRA sees promise in adding further to its reporting channels. Other methods could make it easier and encourage more filings, Foy said. "Applications for smartphones, improved web reporting forms and the use of social media such as Twitter and Facebook are being carefully considered as potential routes," he added.

Social media isn't ideally structured for reporting drug reactions, however. To be included in the MHRA database, a report has to include specific information on the drug, the reaction, the patient and the reporting doctor, and it has to allow for follow-up by the agency. "Twitter and Facebook do not easily lend themselves to" ensuring that the data is structured correctly, Foy explained.

- see the story at GP Online