PURPOSE: The aim of this study was to develop and test a semi-automated process for conducting routine active safety monitoring for new drugs in a network of electronic healthcare databases.
METHODS: We built a modular program that semi-automatically performs cohort identification, confounding adjustment, diagnostic checks, aggregation and effect estimation across multiple databases, and application of a sequential alerting algorithm. During beta-testing, we applied the system to five databases to evaluate nine examples emulating prospective monitoring with retrospective data (five pairs for which we expected signals, two negative controls, and two examples for which it was uncertain whether a signal would be expected): cerivastatin versus atorvastatin and rhabdomyolysis; paroxetine versus tricyclic antidepressants and gastrointestinal bleed; lisinopril versus angiotensin receptor blockers and angioedema; ciprofloxacin versus macrolide antibiotics and Achilles tendon rupture; rofecoxib versus non-selective non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ns-NSAIDs) and myocardial infarction; telithromycin versus azithromycin and hepatotoxicity; rosuvastatin versus atorvastatin and diabetes and rhabdomyolysis; and celecoxib versus ns-NSAIDs and myocardial infarction.
RESULTS: We describe the program, the necessary inputs, and the assumed data environment. In beta-testing, the system generated four alerts, all among positive control examples (i.e., lisinopril and angioedema; rofecoxib and myocardial infarction; ciprofloxacin and tendon rupture; and cerivastatin and rhabdomyolysis). Sequential effect estimates for each example were consistent in direction and magnitude with existing literature.
CONCLUSIONS: Beta-testing across nine drug-outcome examples demonstrated the feasibility of the proposed semi-automated prospective monitoring approach. In retrospective assessments, the system identified an increased risk of myocardial infarction with rofecoxib and an increased risk of rhabdomyolysis with cerivastatin years before these drugs were withdrawn from the market.