Frequent discussion of insomnia and weight gain with glucocorticoid therapy: An analysis of Twitter posts

Rikesh Patel, Maksim Belousov, Meghna Jani, Nabarun Dasgupta, Carly Winakor , Goran Nenadic, William Dixon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In recent years, social media websites have been suggested as a novel, vast source of data which may be useful for deriving drug safety information. Despite this, there are few published reports of drug safety profiles derived in this way. The aims of this study were to detect and quantify glucocorticoid-related adverse events using a computerised system for automated detection of suspected adverse drug reactions (ADR) from narrative text in Twitter, and to compare the frequency of specific ADR mentions within Twitter to the frequency and patterns of spontaneous ADR reporting to a national drug regulatory body. Of 159,297 tweets mentioning either prednisolone or prednisone between 1st October 2012 and 30th June 2015, 20,206 tweets were deemed to contain information resembling an ADR. The top AE MedDRA® Preferred Terms were ‘insomnia’ and ‘weight increased’, both recognised non-serious but common side effects. These were proportionally over-reported in Twitter when compared to spontaneous reports in the UK regulator’s ADR reporting scheme. Serious glucocorticoid related AEs were reported less frequently. Pharmacovigilance using Twitter data has the potential to be a valuable, supplementary source of drug safety information. In particular, it can illustrate which drug side effects patients discuss most commonly, potentially because of important impacts on quality of life. This information could help clinicians to inform patients about frequent and relevant non-serious side effects as well as more serious side effects.
Original languageEnglish
Article number7
Journaln p j Digital Medicine
Early online date12 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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