The U.S. Food and Drug Administration launched http://open.FDA.gov, 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 to quickly search, query or pull massive amounts of public information instantaneously and directly from FDA datasets on an as needed basis.
OpenFDA utilizes a search-based Application Program Interface (API) to collect large amounts of existing publicly available data, 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 openFDA initiative leverages new technologies and methods to unlock the tremendous public data and resources available from the FDA in a user-friendly way,” said Walter S. Harris, the FDA’s chief operating officer and acting chief information officer. “OpenFDA is a valuable resource that will help those in the private and public sectors use FDA public data to spur innovation, advance academic research, educate the public, and protect public health.”
The initiative is the result of extensive 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. Read the press release