Reactions 1664, p9 - 12 Aug 2017
Facebook mentions regarding
statins and side effects
Use of a commercial data-mining product identified
25 700 Facebook mentions regarding statins in a month,
according to study results reported in Drug Safety, 4.3%
of which also mentioned relevant side effects.
The study involved Sysomos as an institutional data
partner which resells data from the Facebook/Datasift
consortium. Mentions of 71 prespecified keywords and
keyphrases in any Facebook story or interaction were
recorded between 9 January 2017 and 8 February 2017.
Summary aggregate statistics were provided for US
adults ≥35 years of age, rounded up to the nearest
The most common topic for the 25 700 mentions was
atorvastatin. Shared links included those to health
policy, health politics, medical, nutritional and general
informational websites. Typical statin side effects were
mentioned by 1200 users, referring to formal terms
(n=55) or informal terms (n=700). The frequency of
mentioning statin-related side effects was similar across
all age brackets.
The authors note that as the actual text of the
Facebook posts are unavailable, it is unknown whether
postings represented the user’s own use of statins, and
that separation of causal or coincidental links is
impossible. In addition, the search criteria used were
not exhaustive, and their reliability was untested.
However, "these findings suggest patients who take
statins do not discuss this widely on Facebook".
"The use of online social networks to listen for early
evidence of drug side effects has theoretical potential,"
note the authors, "but the reality of data availability
remains a serious challenge". They note that "partnering
directly with Facebook could overcome this obstacle,
although privacy constraints may stymie this promise".
Huesch MD. Commercial Online Social Network Data and Statin Side-Effect
Surveillance: A Pilot Observational Study of Aggregate Mentions on Facebook.
Drug Safety : 26 Jul 2017
Reactions 12 Aug 2017 No. 16640114-9954/17/1664-0001/$14.95 Adis © 2017 Springer International Publishing AG. All rights reserved