Using social media for detecting drugs side effects



Health professional and physicians have been working tirelessly to determine the detect drug’s side effects using various ways. Some of the commonly used methods include the health center’s prescribed conventional procedures, which involves close observation of the patients or victim’s behaviors and actions. It is important to acknowledge that, with the increased technology people are able to access and use social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, What Sapp, and hangouts among others, from where they can post status, videos, comments, and as a result discuss about their daily activities and their general wellbeing. Notably, social media has become one of the areas from which physician could clinically detect some of the drug’s side effects because people feel free to share a wider range of interests which include personal information related to body health.

In many developing countries, doctors are now using information posted on the social media to report on the drug’s side effects. Researchers have established correlational reports of the apparent side-effects and have helped in determining and identifying whether the number experiencing a certain side effects is increased by taking a particular drug: if there is a tendency of a repeated occurrence of the side-effects then there is need for action to be taken to reduce the risk posed to patients. The project study seeks to provide an understanding of the extent to which social media (e.g. Facebook) is used in the developing countries and whether it actually practical to use data from social media to provide reliable information about drug usage and apparent side-effects in such countries.

Background information

In the recent years, technological advancements have been on the very best and mobile technology has become a thing of every day to large population. The way in which people access, create, and disseminate information is highly depended on the daily usage of the mobile technology. Importantly, people who use technology are easily located over others and hence the present internet era has provided swift ways of acquiring the need information through social networking. The ever increasing contribution of the internet and the rate at which information is transferred from one place to another over the recent years, has significantly contributed to easy location and detection of various elements that many researchers are working to achieve (Brandtzæg, 2014).

According to Sahu (2013), social networking entails a composition of organizations or individuals attached to one another and from which information is passed from one individual to another. In the professional workplaces, universities, and colleges, it is considered fashionable to use social networking among individuals in the process of communicating or passing sensitive information from one person to another. The objective the study was to establish the awareness of social networking among professionals as well as exploring the purposes of social networking sites use by librarians and other professionals. To obtain the relevant data, the study relied on the survey method which involves use of questionnaires. The study revealed that, most of the individuals logged in often and opened 4-5 accounts every day. Most of the participants were having more than two hundred friends from which information sensitive information was passed across. Most of the respondents were in agreement that, social media was playing an integral part in their lives.

Lardon et al., (2015), conducted a study with objective of exploring the breadth of evidence that the use of social media can act as a source of new knowledge for pharmacovigilance. The descriptive characteristics and Daubt et al’s recommendations of scope reviewing was followed the study. According to Lardon et al., (2015), the use of the traditional methods of establishing the drug’s side effects resulted to underreporting of the overreactions of drugs administered on patients and this consequently lead to the increased death rates or birth of behavioral disorders due to complications that would result by use a drug with negative side effects. The study noted that, reliance of the traditional reporting methods would introduce limitation on the efficiency of the most current pharmacovigilance system.  It was observed that, the patients experience with drugs can be readily obtained or derived from the internet and that, the use of social media represents the new source of data upon which doctors can rely on to establish or detect the drug’s side-effects .

Newton, Green and Fernandez (2010), According to Newton, Green and Fernandez (2010) established that over the past years since the time of our ancestors, substandard and counterfeit medicines have been a re-occurring problem with the history punctuated with continuous use of fake cinchona bark and fake quinine. Unfortunately, this problem has been there in the developing countries, and poor quality drugs are the reasons for the health problems that exist in the society.  In their study, it was suggested that, the problem could be combated through strengthening medicine regulatory authorities, facilitating inexpensive and good quality products. Further, it was established that, there was need for urgent huge sample of data with sampling design that could provide reliable information on the prevalence of poor quality medicines. Social media formed one of the formidable sites to obtain such enormous amounts of data. The study relied on qualitative method s such as interviews and use of sample questionnaires to assemble the relevant information required in the study.

Usman and Katsina (2015), studied the role of social media in the dissemination of information to the grassroots.  In their work and based on the mediamorphosis democratic participant media theories, they reviewed the secondary data in order to explore how pressure and need for immediate dissemination of information has transformed the way in which information is passed across in the Nigeria. They were able to establish that, social media has become an indispensable tool, and through it people are able to pass crucial information from one point to another and consequently resulting to quick reactions.

Upon reviewing several scholarly articles, it was found out that, social media is a powerful platform from which information of whatever kind can be passed from one place to another, either through Facebook messaging, twitter hurdles and many others. Importantly, most of the reviewed works have heavily relied on social media to obtain the much desired data towards achieving the objectives of the study. Most of the findings have emphasized on how people have different accounts and one can open all of them within a span of four to five hours. On the research design, most of the studies have used interviews and survey method in form of online questionnaires to obtain data from the respondent. Additionally, other studies have relied heavily on the review of the existing literature following the Daubt et al’s recommendation and the descriptive characteristics. The present study will employ similar methods with data mining being an additional method of data assembling.  The study will rely exclusively on information from tweeps (Costa, 2013).

Data required

The data required in the present study will be obtained largely from individuals with twitter accounts. The necessary data in this study will be based on questions posed earlier on how often people use twitter, further on the same, the study will be interested to find out the kind of information tweeps do share in their tweet hurdles. The data will be obtained through data mining method. It is of paramount importance to assemble the necessary data that will be useful in the study. The present research will involve human participants and human data. Because the data will be obtained through data mining, then human participation is required though not very much since most the information required is the already existing information but on their statuses and comments (Data Mining on Large Health Record Databases for Detecting Adverse Reactions: Which Events to Monitor?, 2008).

Since the study is construed towards establish the drug’s side-effects on individuals, it is recommendable to use real human data and not synthetic data. Synthetic data may lead to wrong finds and consequently result to knowledge that cannot be validated in the event that another research is conducted on similar area of interest. Hence the study will rely exclusively on the real human data. For ethical use of human data, the following procedure will be followed;  Notably, the study will restricted to people who have been using drugs prescribed by their respective physicians, hence it will be important apply to another research committee, and with recognition and approval and having all the available ethical recommendations the project will receive green light to commence.

Research design

The study will borrow from the existing methods of data; hence there is no new skill of data accumulation. Iterative water model will be used due to its powerful of improving data from step to the next. It is of importance to note that, the method does not attempt to start with a full specifications of the requirements, instead, developments begins by implementing just one part of the software which can then be reviewed in order to improve on the further requirement. The process is repetitive cycle and results to a new version after every step. The core reason for use this kind of model is because it enables the researcher to get the reliable user’s feedback and with less time spent. The study will employ the Hadoop-Java program, if necessary the study use MATLAB software to plot tables and draw graphs when necessary.

Statement of deliverables

The thesis dissertation will be development from the available information which is collected, analyzed, and interpreted, from the information gathered, it will be concluded whether social medial can form a reliable platform from which relevant knowledge concerning drug’s side effects. Development of a tool in the health care sector through which data from social media can be used to find for information useful in determining the side-effects of drug use (Tricco et al., 2017).


It is important for researchers to employ a working schedule to ensure that all the activities of the project is executed to the final element. This study will approximately be executed within a period of five months. Below is the plan of how the activities will follow.


Month1st month2nd month3rd month4th month5th month
Identification of the problem and discussion with the tutor


Data collection process



Data analysis and interpretation


Results, recommendations and discussion


Project proposal submission


Risk assessment report

Some of the things that would go wrong in the study include, mockery when dealing with participants, loss of information, computer breakdown, lack of cooperation from the selected respondents, misplacements of data, lack of most important data relevant to the study, lack of enough facilitation, and lastly, ethical issue questions. To ensure that, none of the aforementioned things goes wrong I would employ back-up systems, engage the right respondents, and lastly, apply the most regarded conventional procedures of data collection (Yuan, Levitan and Berlin, 2011).

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  2. Costa, F. (2013). Social networks, web-based tools and diseases: implications for biomedical research. Drug Discovery Today, 18(5-6), pp.272-281.
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  7. Newton, P., Green, M. and Fernández, F. (2010). Impact of poor-quality medicines in the ‘developing’ world. Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, 31(3), pp.99-101.
  8. Sin, S. and Kim, K. (2013). International students’ everyday life information seeking: The informational value of social networking sites. Library & Information Science Research, 35(2), pp.107-116.
  9. Tricco, A., Zarin, W., Lillie, E., Pham, B. and Straus, S. (2017). Utility of social media and crowd-sourced data for pharmacovigilance: a scoping review protocol. BMJ Open, 7(1), p.e013474.
  10. Yuan, Z., Levitan, B. and Berlin, J. (2011). Benefit-risk assessment: to quantify or not to quantify, that is the question. Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety, 20(6), pp.653-656.
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