RedMed: Extending drug lexicons for social media applications

J Biomed Inform. 2019 Nov;99:103307. doi: 10.1016/j.jbi.2019.103307. Epub 2019 Oct 15.


Social media has been identified as a promising potential source of information for pharmacovigilance. The adoption of social media data has been hindered by the massive and noisy nature of the data. Initial attempts to use social media data have relied on exact text matches to drugs of interest, and therefore suffer from the gap between formal drug lexicons and the informal nature of social media. The Reddit comment archive represents an ideal corpus for bridging this gap. We trained a word embedding model, RedMed, to facilitate the identification and retrieval of health entities from Reddit data. We compare the performance of our model trained on a consumer-generated corpus against publicly available models trained on expert-generated corpora. Our automated classification pipeline achieves an accuracy of 0.88 and a specificity of >0.9 across four different term classes. Of all drug mentions, an average of 79% (±0.5%) were exact matches to a generic or trademark drug name, 14% (±0.5%) were misspellings, 6.4% (±0.3%) were synonyms, and 0.13% (±0.05%) were pill marks. We find that our system captures an additional 20% of mentions; these would have been missed by approaches that rely solely on exact string matches. We provide a lexicon of misspellings and synonyms for 2978 drugs and a word embedding model trained on a health-oriented subset of Reddit.

Keywords: Drug Surveillance; Lexicon; Natural Language Processing; Pharmacovigilance; Social Media.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Data Mining
  • Databases, Pharmaceutical
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination / methods*
  • Natural Language Processing*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / classification
  • Pharmacovigilance*
  • Social Media*


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations