Exploring Spanish Health Social Media for detecting drug effects
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Background: Adverse Drug reactions (ADR) cause a high number of deaths among hospitalized patients in developed countries. Major drug agencies have devoted a great interest in the early detection of ADRs due to their high incidence and increasing health care costs. Reporting systems are available in order for both healthcare professionals and patients to alert about possible ADRs. However, several studies have shown that these adverse events are underestimated. Our hypothesis is that health social networks could be a significant information source for the early detection of ADRs as well as of new drug indications. Methods: In this work we present a system for detecting drug effects (which include both adverse drug reactions as well as drug indications) from user posts extracted from a Spanish health forum. Texts were processed using MeaningCloud, a multilingual text analysis engine, to identify drugs and effects. In addition, we developed the first Spanish database storing drugs as well as their effects automatically built from drug package inserts gathered from online websites. We then applied a distant-supervision method using the database on a collection of 84,000 messages in order to extract the relations between drugs and their effects. To classify the relation instances, we used a kernel method based only on shallow linguistic information of the sentences. Results: Regarding Relation Extraction of drugs and their effects, the distant supervision approach achieved a recall of 0.59 and a precision of 0.48. Conclusions: The task of extracting relations between drugs and their effects from social media is a complex challenge due to the characteristics of social media texts. These texts, typically posts or tweets, usually contain many grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. Moreover, patients use lay terminology to refer to diseases, symptoms and indications that is not usually included in lexical resources in languages other than English.