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Advera Health Analytics, Inc.

The Value and Validity of Social Media Monitoring in Pharmacovigilance

June 29, 2018

social media monitoring for pharmacovigilanceIn talking with current and prospective clients around Advera Health's partnership with Booz Allen's Epidemico social media monitoring data, we get asked a lot about not only the validity of the process Booz Allen goes through to cut through the "noise", but also about the value social media monitoring has for post-marketing drug safety surveillance and pharmacovigilance. In addition to highlighting the primer we put together, we also refer those interested to the numerous academic publications on the topic. Three core publications that Booz Allen has conducted in collaboration with regulators and industry serve as a starting point, and below is a summary of key points and links to the full publications. 

Furthermore, a great resource on the topic was recently put out by the creators of the Pharmacovigilance Analytics blog: Twitter, Safety and Pharmacovigilance: All Papers Retrieved using PubMed. Please do yourself a favor and explore all of the articles on www.PharmacovigilanceAnalytics.com closely. A really nice summary of next generation pharmacovigilance by Jose Rossello. 

If you are interested in seeing how the most value can be extracted from social media as it's applied to pharmacovigilance, please reach out and start a conversation with us. 

Social Media Listening for Routine Post-Marketing Safety Surveillance (Powell GE, Seifert HA, Reblin T, Burstein PJ, Blowers J, Menius JA, Painter JL, Thomas M, Pierce CE, Rodriguez HW, Brownstein JS, Freifeld CC, Bell HG, Dasgupta N.) Drug Safety. 2016 Jan 21. 

Key Points

  • Existing post-marketing adverse event surveillance systems suffer from under-reporting and data processing lags.
  • Social media services such as Twitter are seeing increasing adoption, and patients are using them to describe adverse experiences with medical products.
  • An analysis of 4,401 of these ‘posts with resemblance to adverse events’ (‘Proto-AEs’) from Twitter found concordance with consumer-reported FDA Adverse Event Reporting System reports at the System Organ Class level.


Digital Drug Safety Surveillance: Monitoring Pharmaceutical Products in Twitter (Freifeld CC, Brownstein JS, Menone CM, Bao W, Filice R, Kass-Hout T, Dasgupta N.) Drug Safety. 2014 May

Key Points

  • Social media and Internet forums contain untapped safety and benefit information.
  • Methods exist to reduce noise and make the data suitable for post-marketing safety surveillance.
  • Additional research is needed to better understand the strengths, limitations, and best practices.


Evaluation of Facebook and Twitter Monitoring to Detect Safety Signals for Medical Products: An Analysis of Recent FDA Safety Alerts (Pierce CE, Bouri K, Pamer C, Proestel S, Rodriguez HW, Le HV, Freifeld CC, Brownstein JS, Walderhaug M, Edwards IR, Dasgupta N.) Drug Safety. 2017 Jan 2.

Key Points

  • Previous work has established that social media can be a viable source for pharmacovigilance signals by drawing information directly from patients that may not have been otherwise reported to regulatory agencies or industry.
  • Of 10 recent postmarketing safety signals from the US FDA, public Facebook and Twitter posts showed mentions of one product–event pair before cases were reported to the traditional spontaneous report system.
  • Social media can be an adjunct to traditional safety reporting systems to possibly uncover postmarketing safety signals more rapidly, although considerations of noise and volume need to be further characterized.

Topics: Pharmacovigiance 2.0

By Jim Davis
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