Through a new initiative called open FDA, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is releasing to the public searchable data sets on prescription drugs.
In the pilot stage, openFDA provides information on millions of reports of adverse events in drug use from 2004 to 2013. This type of information had previously been available mostly through Freedom of Information Act requests, which can be time-consuming and difficult, the FDA said. The data released include drug side effects, product-use errors, and product quality problems, according to the Washington Post.
Dr. Taha Kass-Hout, the FDA’s chief health informatics officer, said the reports will allow software developers to “build tools to help signal potential safety information, derive meaningful insights, and get information to consumers and health care professionals in a timely manner,” according to an FDA news release. With search apps for smart phones, consumers could see if other users had experienced adverse events when taking a particular drug.
The openFDA interface allows developers to build applications on top of openFDA, enabling a wide variety of applications to be built on one common platform. Walter S. Harris, the FDA’s chief operating officer and acting chief information officer called openFDA “a valuable resource that will help those in the private and public sectors use FDA public data to spur innovation, advance academic research, educate the public, and protect public health.”
The FDA will eventually expand openFDA to include information about product recalls, product labeling, and other topics. None of the data released can be used to identify individuals or access private information. More information about this initiative can be found at open.FDA.gov.