There are a number of online resources that allow consumers to obtain safety and efficacy information relevant to medications, pharmaceuticals and medical devices. The non-profit organization Public Citizen publishes a list of the worst and best pills currently available on the market. The website hosts data and information pertaining to the side effects, reliability and use of various medications. The website also contains medication-specific information along with other resources and consumer guides.
A recent article in the New York Times discussed a new technology that will analyze data from drug and medication queries entered into Google, Microsoft and Yahoo search engines. Using this technology, scientists at Microsoft, Stanford and Columbia University have begun to detect and monitor unreported prescription drug side effects before they are found by the Food and Drug Administration’s (“FDA”) warning system. This automated software is a powerful tool that researchers hope will help improve knowledge of drug-drug interactions. Additionally, medical providers hope to learn of possible side effects earlier, potentially allowing for earlier recalls of dangerous medications. It is thought by some that the public health could be greatly improved through this technology. The FDA launched the Sentinel Initiative in 2008 that will allow the FDA to electronically track the safety of drugs, biologics and medical devices once they reach the market.