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How Social Media Can Reveal Overlooked Drug Reactions

By Menaka Wilhelm
Health News From NPR

When Allison Ruddick was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer in October 2014, she turned to the world of hashtags.

After her initial diagnosis it wasn’t clear if the cancer had metastasized, so she was in for a nerve-wracking wait, she says. She wanted outside advice. “But they don’t really give you a handbook, so you search kind of anywhere for answers,” Ruddick says. “Social media was one of the first places I went.”

Partly because of that experience gap, doctors and drug companies are keen to learn from online communities, too. They’re analyzing social networks to get a faster, wider look into how patients react to drugs, sometimes picking up information about side effects that clinical trials missed.

Read more from NPR.