U.K. watchdogs hope to tap social media for drug-safety purposes

Now, it's U.K. drug regulators who are devising plans to eavesdrop on social media. But unlike the FDA, which plans to monitor the world of online sharing to see whether its communications are hitting their targets, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency plans to search for drug safety info.

The "WEB-RADR" project will start with a mobile app for healthcare professionals and the public to use to report drug side effects to European regulators. The app may also be a two-way street, used by the MHRA to roll out up-to-date info on medicines to doctors and patients.

A broader goal of the project will be to determine how--and to what end--regulators might monitor Facebook, Twitter, patient forums, and other sharing platforms for chatter about drug side effects.

"Such data sharing, if properly harnessed, could provide an extremely valuable source of information for monitoring the safety of medicines after they have been licensed," Mick Foy of the MHRA's vigilance and risk management division said (as quoted by Pharmafile).

How to go about that monitoring is the question, given concerns about maintaining patient privacy and interpreting social-media chatter. But drugmakers are going about their own Big Data projects--including monitoring social media for clues--so regulators may feel the need to keep up.

- read the Pharmafile story

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