Increasing Patient Engagement in Pharmacovigilance Through Online Community Outreach and Mobile Reporting Applications: An Analysis of Adverse Event Reporting for the Essure Device in the US

Chi Y Bahk, Melanie Goshgarian, Krystal Donahue, Clark C Freifeld, Christopher M Menone, Carrie E Pierce, Harold Rodriguez, John S Brownstein, Robert Furberg, Nabarun Dasgupta
Pharmaceutical Medicine 2015, 29 (6): 331-340

BACKGROUND: Preparing and submitting a voluntary adverse event (AE) report to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a medical device typically takes 40 min. User-friendly Web and mobile reporting apps may increase efficiency. Further, coupled with strategies for direct patient involvement, patient engagement in AE reporting may be improved. In 2012, the FDA Center for Devices and Radiologic Health (CDRH) launched a free, public mobile AE reporting app, MedWatcher, for patients and clinicians. During the same year, a patient community on Facebook adopted the app to submit reports involving a hysteroscopic sterilization device, brand name Essure® .

METHODS: Patient community outreach was conducted to administrators of the group "Essure Problems" (approximately 18,000 members as of June 2015) to gather individual case safety reports (ICSRs). After agreeing on key reporting principles, group administrators encouraged members to report via the app. Semi-structured forms in the app mirrored fields of the MedWatch 3500 form. ICSRs were transmitted to CDRH via an electronic gateway, and anonymized versions were posted in the app. Data collected from May 11, 2013 to December 7, 2014 were analyzed. Narrative texts were coded by trained and certified MedDRA coders (version 17). Descriptive statistics and metrics, including VigiGrade completeness scores, were analyzed. Various incentives and motivations to report in the Facebook group were observed.

RESULTS: The average Essure AE report took 11.4 min (±10) to complete. Submissions from 1349 women, average age 34 years, were analyzed. Serious events, including hospitalization, disability, and permanent damage after implantation, were reported by 1047 women (77.6 %). A total of 13,135 product-event pairs were reported, comprising 327 unique preferred terms, most frequently fatigue ( n  = 491), back pain (468), and pelvic pain (459). Important medical events (IMEs), most frequently mental impairment (142), device dislocation (108), and salpingectomy (62), were reported by 598 women (44.3 %). Other events of interest included loss of libido ( n  = 115); allergy to metals (109), primarily nickel; and alopecia (252). VigiGrade completeness scores were high, averaging 0.80 (±0.15). Reports received via the mobile app were considered "well documented" 55.9 % of the time, compared with an international average of 13 % for all medical products. On average, there were 15 times more reports submitted per month via the app with patient community support versus traditional pharmacovigilance portals.

CONCLUSIONS: Outreach via an online patient community, coupled with an easy-to-use app, allowed for rapid and detailed ICSRs to be submitted, with gains in efficiency. Two-way communication and public posting of narratives led to successful engagement within a Motivation-Incentive-Activation-Behavior framework, a conceptual model for successful crowdsourcing. Reports submitted by patients were considerably more complete than those submitted by physicians in routine spontaneous reports. Further research is needed to understand how biases operate differently from those of traditional pharmacovigilance.


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