FDA, HHS make data available to public

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has released data on drug adverse events as part of an initiative to make the information it gathers more readily usable by developers, researchers and the public.

This first dataset is an example of the OpenFDA program's aim to make publicly available data accessible in a structured, computer-readable format. It provides an open "search-based" application programming interface that will allow software developers to build their own applications that pull information from the FDA in real time, according to an announcement by Taha Kass-Hout, the FDA's Chief Health Informatics Officer.

The OpenFDA initiative officially was launched on Monday.

The adverse events data represents reports submitted to the FDA from 2004 through 2013. It addition to the developer APIs, openFDA will provide raw data downloads, documentation and examples, and a developer community based on the datasets. Kass-Hout writes that moving forward, the agency will be listening closely to public feedback on how to make OpenFDA even more useful.

The Department of Health and Human Services also is releasing new data and tools this week at the Health Datapalooza conference in Washington, D.C., it announced.

The agency updated the previously released Medicare hospital charge data, as well as a suite of other data and tools aimed to increase transparency about Medicare payments, including interactive dashboards for the CMS Chronic Conditions Data Warehouse and geographic variation data.

Healthcare lags other industries in mashing together big datasets to learn more about its customers--a prospect that poses myriad challenges, FierceHealthIT recently reported.

Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission warned in a report last week that consumer health data needs more protection and transparency from data brokers.

To learn more:
- find the OpenFDA website
- read the FDA announcement
- here's the HHS announcement