Computational approaches for pharmacovigilance signal detection: toward integrated and semantically-enriched frameworks

Drug Saf. 2015 Mar;38(3):219-32. doi: 10.1007/s40264-015-0278-8.


Computational signal detection constitutes a key element of postmarketing drug monitoring and surveillance. Diverse data sources are considered within the 'search space' of pharmacovigilance scientists, and respective data analysis methods are employed, all with their qualities and shortcomings, towards more timely and accurate signal detection. Recent systematic comparative studies highlighted not only event-based and data-source-based differential performance across methods but also their complementarity. These findings reinforce the arguments for exploiting all possible information sources for drug safety and the parallel use of multiple signal detection methods. Combinatorial signal detection has been pursued in few studies up to now, employing a rather limited number of methods and data sources but illustrating well-promising outcomes. However, the large-scale realization of this approach requires systematic frameworks to address the challenges of the concurrent analysis setting. In this paper, we argue that semantic technologies provide the means to address some of these challenges, and we particularly highlight their contribution in (a) annotating data sources and analysis methods with quality attributes to facilitate their selection given the analysis scope; (b) consistently defining study parameters such as health outcomes and drugs of interest, and providing guidance for study setup; (c) expressing analysis outcomes in a common format enabling data sharing and systematic comparisons; and (d) assessing/supporting the novelty of the aggregated outcomes through access to reference knowledge sources related to drug safety. A semantically-enriched framework can facilitate seamless access and use of different data sources and computational methods in an integrated fashion, bringing a new perspective for large-scale, knowledge-intensive signal detection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Computing Methodologies*
  • Diffusion of Innovation
  • Drug Monitoring / methods
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination / methods
  • Information Storage and Retrieval / methods*
  • Pharmacovigilance*
  • Product Surveillance, Postmarketing / methods*
  • Semantics*