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Health Informatics J. 2019 Sep 30:1460458219865128. doi: 10.1177/1460458219865128. [Epub ahead of print]

Pharmacology and social media: Potentials and biases of web forums for drug mention analysis-case study of France.

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Sorbonne Université and Université Paris 13, France.
CHU University Hospital of Saint-Etienne, France.
Centre Hospitalier Universitaire, France.
University of Bordeaux, France; CHU de Bordeaux, France.
Assistance publique-Hôpitaux de Paris (AP-HP), France.
Sorbonne Université and Université Paris 13, France; CHU University Hospital of Saint-Etienne, France.


The aim of this study is to analyze drug mentions in web forums to evaluate the utility of this data source for drug post-marketing studies. We automatically annotated over 60 million posts extracted from 21 French web forums. Drug mentions detected in this corpus were matched to drug names in a French drug database (Theriaque®). Our analysis showed that a high proportion of the most frequent drug mentions in the selected web forums correspond to drugs that are usually prescribed to young women, such as combined oral contraceptives. The most mentioned drugs in our corpus correlated weakly to the most prescribed drugs in France but seemed to be influenced by events widely reported in traditional media. In this article, we conclude that web forums have high potential for post-marketing drug-related studies, such as pharmacovigilance, and observation of drug utilization. However, the bias related to forum selection and the corresponding population representativeness should always be taken into account.


drug database; drug utilization; health information on the web; pharmaco-epidemiology; social media


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