Websites Mine ‘Clumsy’ U.S. Health Data to Rate Medical Products

Two companies aim to do for the health-care industry what Morningstar Inc. does for stocks and Carfax Inc. for vehicles: provide consumers with ratings for drugs and medical devices.

Clarimed LLC, a closely held Santa Clara, California-based company, takes publicly available information about side effects and negative outcomes for 125,000 medical devices such as heart stents and pacemakers and puts it on a website that’s searchable by type or disease. AdverseEvents Inc., which like Clarimed unveiled its service at this week’s Health 2.0 Conference in San Francisco, seeks to provide transparency on negative drug interactions.

Drug- and device-makers are legally required to report so-called adverse events to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The information is put into FDA databases riddled with mistakes that make it difficult to search, said Brian Overstreet, co-founder and president of closely held Healdsburg, California-based AdverseEvents.

“There are over 440 different misspellings of Ambien in their database,” Overstreet said about Sanofi’s sleep medicine. “That problem gets multiplied across every field in the database -- the side effects are misspelled, the conditions are misspelled, the dosages are misspelled.”

Nora Iluri, founder and CEO of Clarimed, said making this information widely available will improve quality.

Seeking Independent View

“Before J.D. Power came out, cars weren’t that safe and they broke down all the time,” Iluri said, about J.D. Power & Associates, the automotive tracking service that compiles consumer satisfaction surveys. After its debut in 1968, “within a decade, quality started to improve, because now there was an independent agency that highlighted issues, so people could perceive quality and make decisions,” she said.

The FDA’s current reporting system for adverse effects “is a bit clumsy and uses raw, coded data,” Sandy Walsh, a spokeswoman for the agency, said in an e-mailed statement. Improvements are in the works, she said, and the information is available in a different form.

“We do provide clean, easy-to-read lists of adverse events for drugs if the information is requested under the Freedom of Information Act, which can take several weeks,” she said.

Clarimed and AdverseEvents offer free information on these adverse events and look to make a profit by selling in-depth reports and analysis.

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