FDA has launched openFDA, a new initiative designed to make it easier for web developers, researchers, and the public to access large, important public health datasets collected by the agency.
In alignment with the recent Presidential Executive Order on Open Data and the Department of Health and Human Services Health Data Initiative, openFDA will make the FDA’s publicly available data accessible in a structured, computer readable format that will make it possible for technology specialists, such as mobile application creators, web developers, data visualization artists, and researchers to quickly search, query, or pull massive amounts of public information instantaneously and directly from FDA datasets on an as needed basis.
OpenFDA uses a search-based Application Program Interface (API) to collect large amounts of existing publicly available data, thereby offering developers the ability to search through text within that data, ranking results much like a search using Google would do. This method then allows them to build their own applications on top of openFDA, giving them a large amount of flexibility to determine what types of data they would like to search and how they would like to present that data to end-users. This enables a wide variety of applications to be built on one common platform.
The initiative is the result of research with internal officials and external developers to identify those datasets that are in recurrent demand and are traditionally fairly difficult to use. Based on this research, the FDA decided to phase in openFDA beginning with an initial pilot program involving the millions of reports of drug-adverse events and medication errors that have been submitted to the FDA from 2004 to 2013. Previously, the data was only available through difficult-to-use reports or Freedom of Information Act requests.
The adverse events data made available under this initiative do not contain any data that could potentially be used to identify individuals or other private information. The pilot will later be expanded to include the FDA’s databases on product recalls and product labeling. In addition to providing datasets, openFDA will encourage the innovative use of the agency’s publicly available data by highlighting potential data applications and providing, a place for community interaction with each other and with FDA domain experts.
The openFDA Initiative was formally launched with the creation of the Chief Health Informatics Officer and the Office of Informatics and Technology Innovation at the FDA.