[caption id="attachment_38432" align="alignleft" width="448" caption="Brian Overstreet"][/caption]
HEALDSBURG -- Readying for a September launch is a startup with relief for a headache that plagues prescription drug makers, sellers and consumers: nasty side effects.
AdverseEvents Inc., founded by data researchers Brian Overstreet and partners, reports on its website the unwanted effects that can accompany over 5,000 prescription drugs.
Like many innovative uses of the Internet, AdverseEvents grew out of frustration, in this case over efforts to research the bad reaction a colleague’s spouse had to a prescription medicine.
“Knowing the data you need is there and not being able to access it is maddening,” said Mr. Overstreet, who previously founded Sagient Research to provide data research to pharmaceutical companies and financial institutions.
Most data regarding drug side effects resides on the Food & Drug Administration’s Adverse Event Reporting System (AERS), a computerized information database designed to support the FDA’s drug safety surveillance program for its approved drugs.
“I can’t fault the FDA for its efforts to collect the information and make it available; it’s a massive undertaking,” said Mr. Overstreet. “But the database is poorly organized and almost impossible to navigate, especially for consumers.”
Used mostly by drug manufacturers and pharmacists to check the particular drugs they handle, the site relies on information volunteered by users of the medications and keyed in without editing or standardization.
Misclassifications are common, he said, with a single branded drug identified by a hundred or more different names.
“Ambien alone was listed under 400 different names,” Mr. Overstreet said.
“We saw a need. If experienced data researchers couldn’t wade through this morass, of what real use could it be to its target audience? It needed to be cleaned up and augmented by more – and more frequent – reporting.”
The first task took him and his partners 18 months. Through their efforts funded by angel investors, they brought the unwieldy list down to 5,900 easily searchable items and wrote code to filter and standardize new information as it was reported by the AERS.
Prescription drugs command an $835 billion global market, estimated to grow to $1.1 trillion by 2014. A reported 48 percent of the U.S. population took one prescription drug and 21 percent took three or more during the course of one month, increasing the potential risk for harmful adverse events, about 24 percent of which require hospitalization.
AdverseEvents designed a simple-to-use reporting system and will launch its own method of trolling the social media sites, where people speak frequently about what they are taking and how it affects them.
The company intends to use a subscription model, with manufacturers of drugs as its primary target market.
“AdverseEvents will help the market research people support development of new drugs, and regulatory people to monitor active drug safety issues. Basically, it's a game changer in drug safety across pharma,” said Mr. Overstreet.
Currently pharma companies have no way to compare their own drugs to competitors with regard to side effects, he said.