The team from Children’s Hospital Boston that brought “Outbreaks Near Me” to smartphones during last year’s H1N1 epidemic has now launched a similar application for tracking and reporting problems with drug safety.
MedWatcher, another app for the iPhone available for free at the iTunes store, holds information about thousands of medications from US Food and Drug Administration databases. It sends alerts from FDA and news media sources on drugs, tailored to the user’s interests.
But MedWatcher goes further, allowing users to submit reviews about problems with drugs, whether they are doctors prescribing them or patients taking them. The Children’s Computational Epidemiology Group will review reports of adverse events and then submit them to the FDA and display them on the MedWatcher app.
“These are new tools for engaging the public for surveillance,” John Brownstein said about MedWatcher, Outbreaks Near Me, and other projects from the group that make use of crowdsourcing.
After a drug is approved by the FDA, problems can emerge that were not apparent during clinical trials before the drug went on the market. The painkiller Vioxx, later linked to heart attacks and strokes, is the classic example of the need for better post-marketing surveillance.
The process for reporting adverse events to federal regulators can be cumbersome. Brownstein, his Children’s colleague Clark Freifeld, and University of North Carolina collaborator Nabarun Dasgupta hope safety issues will be detected more rapidly if people find it easier to send a message from their phones.
“Once people see that other people are contributing, they’re more likely to contribute. If enough people contribute, you get closer to the answer,” he said about the theory behind crowdsourcing.
About white coat notes
|White Coat Notes covers the latest from the health care industry, hospitals, doctors offices, labs, insurers, and the corridors of government. Chelsea Conaboy previously covered health care for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @cconaboy.|
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