Neural side effect discovery from user credibility and experience-assessed online health discussions

J Biomed Semantics. 2020 Jul 8;11(1):5. doi: 10.1186/s13326-020-00221-1.


Background: Health 2.0 allows patients and caregivers to conveniently seek medical information and advice via e-portals and online discussion forums, especially regarding potential drug side effects. Although online health communities are helpful platforms for obtaining non-professional opinions, they pose risks in communicating unreliable and insufficient information in terms of quality and quantity. Existing methods in extracting user-reported adverse drug reactions (ADRs) in online health forums are not only insufficiently accurate as they disregard user credibility and drug experience, but are also expensive as they rely on supervised ground truth annotation of individual statement. We propose a NEural ArchiTecture for Drug side effect prediction (NEAT), which is optimized on the task of drug side effect discovery based on a complete discussion while being attentive to user credibility and experience, thus, addressing the mentioned shortcomings. We train our neural model in a self-supervised fashion using ground truth drug side effects from NEAT learns to assign each user a score that is descriptive of their credibility and highlights the critical textual segments of their post.

Results: Experiments show that NEAT improves drug side effect discovery from online health discussion by 3.04% from user-credibility agnostic baselines, and by 9.94% from non-neural baselines in term of F1. Additionally, the latent credibility scores learned by the model correlate well with trustworthiness signals, such as the number of "thanks" received by other forum members, and improve credibility heuristics such as number of posts by 0.113 in term of Spearman's rank correlation coefficient. Experience-based self-supervised attention highlights critical phrases such as mentioned side effects, and enhances fully supervised ADR extraction models based on sequence labelling by 5.502% in terms of precision.

Conclusions: NEAT considers both user credibility and experience in online health forums, making feasible a self-supervised approach to side effect prediction for mentioned drugs. The derived user credibility and attention mechanism are transferable and improve downstream ADR extraction models. Our approach enhances automatic drug side effect discovery and fosters research in several domains including pharmacovigilance and clinical studies.

Keywords: Credibility analysis; Deep learning; Drug side effect discovery; Natural language processing; Online health communities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't