Burden of Neurological Diseases in the US Revealed by Web Searches

PLoS One. 2017 May 22;12(5):e0178019. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0178019. eCollection 2017.


Background: Analyzing the disease-related web searches of Internet users provides insight into the interests of the general population as well as the healthcare industry, which can be used to shape health care policies.

Methods: We analyzed the searches related to neurological diseases and drugs used in neurology using the most popular search engines in the US, Google and Bing/Yahoo.

Results: We found that the most frequently searched diseases were common diseases such as dementia or Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), as well as medium frequency diseases with high social impact such as Parkinson's disease, MS and ALS. The most frequently searched CNS drugs were generic drugs used for pain, followed by sleep disorders, dementia, ADHD, stroke and Parkinson's disease. Regarding the interests of the healthcare industry, ADHD, Alzheimer's disease, MS, ALS, meningitis, and hypersomnia received the higher advertising bids for neurological diseases, while painkillers and drugs for neuropathic pain, drugs for dementia or insomnia, and triptans had the highest advertising bidding prices.

Conclusions: Web searches reflect the interest of people and the healthcare industry, and are based either on the frequency or social impact of the disease.

MeSH terms

  • Drug Information Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Drugs, Generic / classification*
  • Humans
  • Information Storage and Retrieval
  • Internet
  • Medical Informatics
  • Nervous System Diseases / classification
  • Nervous System Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Search Engine / statistics & numerical data*


  • Drugs, Generic

Grant support

This study was funded by CERCA Program / Generalitat de Catalunya to PV. Funders have no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Amazon Inc., a commercial company provided support in the form of salaries for author PS, but did not have any additional role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The specific roles of these authors are articulated in the ‘author contributions.