The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has launched a database that pulls together large amounts of data to enable “those in private and public sectors [to] use FDA public data to spur innovation, advance academic research, educate the public, and protect public health.” The “openFDA” launch is a pilot that involves millions of reports of drug adverse events and medication errors submitted to the agency between 2004 and 2013.

In the past, this data was apparently available only through Freedom of Information Act requests. Software developers will now be able to build mobile phone applications or interactive Websites that can search, query or gather large amounts of public information “instantaneously and directly in real time on an ‘as-needed’ basis.” According to FDA, this would enable consumers with such apps on their smart phones “to determine whether anyone else has experienced the same adverse event they did after taking a certain drug.” In the future, FDA will expand the database to include product recall and labeling data. See FDA News Release and FDAVoice Blog, June 2, 2014.