Pharmacovigilance – How Social Media Listening can help in it?

What is Pharmacovigilance?

In the Greek language “pharmakon” means medical substances and in Latin language “vigilia” means to keep a watch. Pharmacovigilance is a term that describes the detection, collection, analysis, understanding, monitoring and prevention of adverse effects in drugs and therapies.

The role of Pharmacovigilance in the pharma field varies and is very diverse. Some of the attributes of Pharmacovigilance involve: 

  • Identifying unknown adverse reactions
  • Identifying changes in the frequency or severity of known adverse reactions.
  • Assessing the risks of medications to determine if actions are needed to improve safety. 
  • Ensuring the accuracy of the information communicated to healthcare professionals and patients and are up-to-date.
  • Determining which side effects cross the drug efficacy line. 

Why is Pharmacovigilance important?

In order to develop, manufacture and sell drugs, companies must comply with strict regulations. Many of these regulations will focus on patient safety and the additional benefits of drugs to patients. The primary aim of every regulator is drug safety and this paves the way for why this discipline plays such a central and important role in the pharma industry. The practice of Pharmacovigilance in clinical research provides valuable information about drug safety to the medical professionals and consumers. When new adverse reactions are discovered, the list of side effects on the label should be updated. Sometimes, due to dangerous side effects, Pharmacovigilance data may cause the drug to be withdrawn from the market.

How Social Media Listening Can Help in Pharmacovigilance?

Pharmacovigilance was officially introduced in 1961 in a case report by an Australian doctor, who first suspected a link between Phocomelia (lethal fetal deformities) and Thalidomide. A drug that was commonly used during pregnancy at the time, Thalidomide was given as an antiemetic and sedative agent to pregnant women. Since then, pharmacovigilance has played an important role worldwide. (1)

Adverse reactions in a drug are a major concern. A clinical trial limited to many patients cannot provide enough information about all possible side effects of a particular drug. Detailed monitoring is needed to identify side effects at an early stage, thereby improving patient safety and reducing losses. 

The security systems for Pharmacovigilance can be strengthened by using social networks, resulting in the availability of real-time information. Social media is an important platform for connecting various stakeholders such as pharmaceutical companies, researchers, doctors, and patients. 

An effective social media Pharmacovigilance model can help the Healthcare organizations and stakeholders become active agents of patient safety. Pharma companies and healthcare companies can use increasingly popular social media listening platforms to identify adverse events and respond in a timely manner. These platforms are great tools for listening to consumer conversations, comments, and complaints and taking corrective action. 

Social media is also a powerful channel to educate consumers about the benefits and side effects of products. This awareness will only help build trust and acceptance. All the collected adverse event data can be analyzed to determine unmet market needs and assist in research to determine areas of product improvement or innovation. 

There are three main steps in establishing a sustained interaction with consumers. 

  • The first is to determine the correct keywords related to the audiences to search for their conversations. 
  • Then listen carefully to their conversations and comments, which can be done on social forums, blogs, and other literature. 
  • Third, use the reports and analysis of the captured data, and finally, creatively respond and use this medium to raise awareness and solve patient’s problems.


It is clear that pharmacovigilance will continue to play an important role in the development of new and effective drugs and therapies in the future, because the core mission will always be to improve and save the lives of patients all over the world. 

The primary purpose of using social media listening for Pharmacovigilance is to improve patient safety by analyzing information in an accurate, concise and timely manner and ensuring the efficiency and accountability of pharmacovigilance activities. 

In a world where online interactions are becoming more common, it is important that the pharma companies implement these novel pharmacovigilance monitoring tools and techniques to listen in more actively to the patients and serve them in an effective way.