Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Sifting Social Media for Early Signs of Adverse Drug Reactions


From the 21 September 2012 article at Science Daily

The National Science Foundation has awarded a $130,000 grant to a team co-led by University of Virginia professor Ahmed Abbasi to fund research that will analyze social media, including tweets and online discussion forums, to identify adverse drug reactions — a process that promises to be much faster and perhaps also more accurate than the existing methods of identifying such reactions.

Currently, once drugs come to market, the FDA relies upon consumers to report adverse side-effects through physicians and other official reporting channels.

The new project, Abbasi explained, will build on related research, currently in publication in the journal ACM Transactions on Information Systems, that demonstrated the promise of social media as an early-warning system for adverse drug reactions. Abbasi and his co-authors retrospectively analyzed four types of public online media (websites, blogs, Web forums and social networking sites) posted from 2000 to early 2012 and were able to identify hundreds of thousands of documents containing adverse drug reaction-related information. The preliminary results suggest that these documents can accurately provide warnings earlier — in some cases, years earlier — than existing channels…

With nearly 10 billion new tweets produced every month, Abbasi said, social media presents a classic “big data” challenge: sifting through terabytes of noisy data to siphon out the nuggets of relevant and reliable information. With social media, information quality is always a concern; a single hypochondriac might produce dozens of unreliable reports of drug side-effects, he noted.

Online medical information is also plagued by medical Web spam: countless pages of medical misinformation designed to exploit consumer fears and sell unregulated remedies ranging from herbal remedies for arthritis to anti-aging skin creams, Abbasi said. Experts estimate that more than 20 percent of all medical information on the Web is spam.

Fortunately, Abbasi comes well-prepared for that challenge. He co-developed an award-winning fraudulent-website detection system able to detect fake medical websites with 94 percent accuracy…..


September 25, 2012 - Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , ,

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