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Plan to use apps/social media for drug safety information

MHRA heads development to use new tech for drug safety

Adrian O'Dowd

Monday, 08 September 2014

Smartphones, social media and apps are to be considered as new ways of dealing with drug safety information, it has been announced.

UK regulator the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is leading a consortium of organisations including European medicines regulators, academics and the drug industry in a three year project to develop new ways of gathering information on suspected adverse drug reactions (ADRs).

The project, known as WEB-RADR, has come about in response to the rapid adoption of smartphones, apps, and social media for discussing issues with medicines and health.

Under the project, the plan is to develop a mobile app for healthcare professionals and the public to report suspected ADRs to national EU regulators.

It will also investigate the potential for publicly available social media data for identifying potential drug safety issues, but it has been stressed that all social media data used within the project will be appropriately anonymised to protect data privacy.

In addition to reporting suspected ADRs the app could also serve as a way to send accurate, timely and up to date medicines information to patients, clinicians, and caregivers.

MHRA said that WEB-RADR would also examine the value of these new tools for monitoring drug safety. It will help to develop recommendations for medicines regulators and the drug industry internationally on how these should be used alongside existing systems.

The project is being funded though the Innovative Medicines Initiative, a public private partnership between the European Commission and European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations.

Mick Foy, group manager in the MHRA’s vigilance and risk management of medicines division said: “The growing use of smartphones and tablets by patients and healthcare professionals creates a need for reporting forms to be provided on these platforms to ensure regulators receive ADR reports that are easy to access and complete.

“Additionally the recent growth of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and the many specialist sites and blogs has given rise to many people sharing their medical experiences publicly on the internet.

“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.

“WEB-RADR will deliver recommendations for international drug safety monitoring as to how these resources should be used ethically and scientifically.”

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