Rx for an Adverse Drug Reaction?

Put it on Twitter

Have you ever taken a newly prescribed drug and had some kind of adverse reaction, whether it is difficulty breathing, headache, or nausea? If so, have you tweeted about how you’re feeling or posted about it on Facebook? If so, you may be inadvertently helping to gather data that one-day can reduce adverse reactions to medications.

A recent project at the University of Virginia and West Virginia University is looking at how pharmaceutical companies use the Internet to obtain feedback about their products and services. The researchers sift through data on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and online blog boards looking for messages about early warning signs of adverse drug reactions. This post is a summary of their project.

The aim of the project is to allow pharmaceutical manufacturers and others in the drug industry to investigate adverse drug reactions sooner to help patients. Currently, the FDA relies on physicians and patients to voluntarily report suspected adverse reactions. It can often take multiple cases before someone at the FDA detects a concrete pattern. Some believe that using social media helps bring these problems to light quicker.

According to Professor Donald Adjeroh, who is co-leading the team, “[i]f you get one thousand people saying the same kind of thing (about a drug), you know that there is maybe something going on somewhere.” For example, using social media sites the professors identified that patients were experiencing tendon ruptures after using the antibiotic Cipro at least two years before the FDA issued its urgent black box warning for the drug in 2008.

According to experts, this process modernizes drug surveillance and can have a major impact on public health and safety. With this early information, pharmaceutical companies can pull a drug off the market faster, saving companies money and causing less injury to consumers. Others contend that this knowledge could also make a company liable sooner. Either way, it’s a win for patients.

If you’ve suffered an adverse drug reaction, don’t limit your discussion about it to Facebook and Twitter. Consult with a lawyer experienced in adverse drug reactions who has secured large verdicts and settlements for clients who have been harmed.

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