2015: Good Pharmacovigilance Practice (GvP) and Social Media

Editor’s Note:  This article about GvP and social media is one of the most read articles ever on our website.  With that in mind, we updated it in 2019 to take into account the myriad changes that had occurred in the world of social media.  You can read the updated version of the article here.

Good Pharmacovigilance Practice (GVP) at its core aims to prevent harm from adverse reactions in humans from medicines and to promote the safe and effective use of medicinal products. Pharmacovigilance professionals are aware that adverse reactions can be reported from a variety of sources – patients, healthcare professionals, competent authorities or marketing authorisation holders. Robust Pharmacovigilance however depends greatly on complete and timely reporting of adverse reactions. And herein lies the problem – it is estimated that over 90% of adverse drug reactions are under-reported1.

Is there a solution? Social media and big data have the potential to revolutionize the current approach to Pharmacovigilance. The advent of social media has been transformative in areas such as marketing, breaking news, recruitment and the way we interact with others around the world. And like anything else, people may share their experiences about their medication on such platforms or on patient forums. Problem solved you might think? Well not quite. Current Pharmacovigilance guidance dictates that a valid individual case safety report should include at least one identifiable reporter, one single identifiable patient, at least one suspect adverse reaction and at least one suspect medicinal product. Any or all of these items could be missing from a social media post. Patients or drug identity may be difficult to identify, the description of the adverse reaction or duration may be vague etc.

Social media as a reputable source of information for media outlets faced similar problem in the recent past. Here in Ireland, Dublin based Storyful was one such company that addressed this with their news verification offering.

While the FDA has issued social media guidance documents in 2014, these were focused on advertising and do not provide guidance on pharmacovigilance. There are a number of collaborations on-going between technology service providers and both regulators and big pharma. We expect to see significant movement in area in the years ahead.

If you would like to discuss this issue with us further, please contact us by using the form below.

We updated this article in 2019.  You can read the new article here.

  1. Hazell L, Shakir SAW. Under-reporting of adverse drug reactions. Drug Saf. 2006;29:385–396.
About the Author
Gemma Robinson, PhD
Managing Director
As Managing Director of Acorn Regulatory, Gemma Robinson is actively involved on client projects on a day to day basis and she leads a team of respected pharmaceutical, medical device, pharmacovigilance and clinical trial experts.  Gemma is also an active contributor to developing and promoting standards in the regulatory affairs profession and she has worked with a number of academic and not for profit organisations to encourage individuals to pursue a career in regulatory affairs and the broader STEM subjects. You can read more articles by Gemma by clicking the link below.
Other articles by Gemma Robinson PhD