Methodological approaches to evaluate the impact of FDA drug safety communications

Drug Saf. 2015 Jun;38(6):565-75. doi: 10.1007/s40264-015-0291-y.


Background: When the US FDA approves a new prescription drug there is still a great deal remaining to be learned about the safe and proper use of that product. When new information addressing these topics emerges post-approval, the FDA may issue a Drug Safety Communication (DSC) to alert patients and physicians. The effectiveness of the communication-how drug safety messaging conveyed in FDA DSCs changes patient or prescriber behavior-may depend on multiple factors, including the way physicians and patients learn about the information, their understanding of the issues conveyed, and their perception of the importance of the information. In 2013, the FDA issued two DSCs addressing critical new warnings related to products containing the sedative/hypnotic zolpidem.

Objective: In this article, we describe a core set of research initiatives that can be used to study how zolpidem-related DSCs affected subsequent physician and patient decision making.

Methods: These research initiatives include analyzing drug utilization patterns and related health outcomes; comparing zolpidem-containing products against a comparator with similar indications [eszopiclone (Lunesta)] not covered by the 2013 DSCs; and surveying patients and qualitatively evaluating the dissemination of information regarding these drugs in traditional and social-media channels.

Conclusions: Using an integrated, multidisciplinary approach, we can obtain information that can be used to optimize regulatory communications by seeking to understand the impact of the information contained in FDA risk communications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Drug Approval
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions*
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / adverse effects
  • Prescription Drugs / adverse effects
  • Pyridines / adverse effects*
  • Risk Management / methods
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration
  • Zolpidem


  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Prescription Drugs
  • Pyridines
  • Zolpidem