Researchers from the University of Virginia and West Virginia University are trying to use technology to make drugs safer. They are developing programs that would scour the internet’s patient chatrooms and websites for conversations and comments about adverse drug reactions. Compiling this data would allow the medical and regulatory communities to address these issues much earlier than in the past.
This technology is already in use in other areas, including terrorism and studying consumer behavior.
The hope is that by using such technology, the time between these incidents occurring and the FDA reacting will be shortened. For instance, while Prozac was approved in 1987, it took until 2005 for the FDA to recognize that certain populations, including children and teens, would be at higher risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
As it stands now, the FDA relies on doctors, companies, and consumers to report adverse events to it directly. Only after a certain number of such events are reported will the FDA begin an investigation.
The challenge with this new methodology is discounting all the irrelevant data and taking into account only what is relevant.
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