Social Media Listening for Routine Post-Marketing Safety Surveillance

February 29, 2016

Our recent paper published in Drug Safety, “Social Media Listening for Routine Post-Marketing Safety Surveillance” highlights our work with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) on Project CRaWL. The publication represents an important milestone in drug safety, with insights into how one industry member is dealing with some of the challenges inherent in utilizing digital listening to capture more information on safety events.

Using machine learning algorithms and Natural Language Processing (NLP), Epidemico worked with GSK to automatically de-identify, de-duplicate, and classify 15,500 drug safety discussions from social media and then translate internet slang into suitable terminology for analysis. Traditional drug safety metrics, such as proportional reporting ratio (PRR), were also calculated for each safety event, to determine if any event was disproportionately reported for that drug, with the highest PRRs observed for well known side effects related to albuterol use.

The study analyzed which medical products and events were most commonly discussed in social media (e.g., influenza vaccine and reports of drug inefficacy) and determined that five of every ten posts would be relevant for drug safety. In addition, the study found that beyond offering important insight into medical product safety, social media data may provide an untapped source for product benefit information.

Project CRaWL has aimed to evaluate social media as a novel data source and determine its potential to meaningfully complement post-marketing safety surveillance, which traditionally has relied on data from spontaneous, clinical, and observational data sources. With this goal in mind, our research results demonstrate that digital listening is an important tool for drug safety and can provide additional data not typically collected through traditional reporting channels. Fully leveraging this tool will require collaboration across industry, regulatory and patient groups.

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