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He suggested that “crowdsourcing” research on something as subjective as drug effects may not yield the most reliable results.

Instead, Avorn pointed to the FDA’s Sentinel program, which, at the first hint of trouble, allows the agency to probe medical record databases covering tens of millions of patients to track the safety of drugs and medical devices once they’re on the market.

Consumers are still encouraged to report drug reactions to the FDA because its database is currently the official way of tracking those issues, said agency spokeswoman Sandy Walsh.

The research team hopes sharing its findings with the larger medical community through a manageable database would allow the industry and regulators to investigate adverse drug reactions sooner and help patients too, said West Virginia University computer science professor Donald Adjeroh, who is co-leading the team. “If you get one thousand people saying the same kind of thing (about a drug), you know that there is maybe something going on somewhere.”


Michael Felberbaum can be reached at