Objective: To develop a comprehensive list of symptoms categorized by body system as part of a questionnaire for detecting potential adverse drug reactions.
Data sources: A preliminary list of symptoms in lay terminology was extracted from the "Side Effects" section of all drug monographs contained in the United States Pharmacopeia Dispensing Information (USP DI) computerized database (Volume II, Advice for the Patient) using natural language processing software. The list was sorted alphabetically and duplicate terms were eliminated. Symptoms were then categorized by body system or anatomic region. A preferred term for each symptom was selected when multiple synonyms and related words were listed. Finally, all of the symptom terms were incorporated into a thesaurus from which the questionnaire was derived.
Results: The questionnaire will be used as part of a computer-assisted interview, developed to solicit information from patients regarding their medication regimens and to systematically query them regarding the presence of salient symptoms or complaints. The computer system will eventually interface with the USP DI database to identify drugs from a patient's regimen that may be associated with adverse symptoms. The symptom thesaurus will provide the link to the USP DI database. Preliminary experience with the questionnaire in a limited number of patients has been encouraging.
Conclusions: The questionnaire can assist clinicians in identifying drug-related symptoms including unreported adverse clinical effects of newly marketed or investigational therapeutic agents. When the questionnaire is computerized and linked to a comprehensive database, it can be more widely used to alert healthcare providers of potential adverse drug reactions that may otherwise go undetected.