Harnessing Open Data

Open data can be described as valuable data provided at no cost by an institution or a research organization for public use. Open Data establishes a central location of data delivery and defines a standard format of data exchange. This eliminates the overhead of duplicate data stores and harmonization of data sets at the consumption sites thereby, promoting ease of use and re-distribution of data.

The Open Data initiative promotes the concept of making the government more open to public, in other words increasing transparency within the government.

By introducing data.gov the United States Government has created a platform to increase transparency and accountability of agencies. United Kingdom, one of the pioneers of the concept of open

government, launched data.gov.uk to make non-personal government data accessible to the public.

Releasing valuable Government information securely encourages interoperability and allows the expansion of knowledge, as well as newer insights to social and economic values leading to several areas of data application.


Also opening data through the primary source (the master source of information) itself prevents data corruption. Open government initiative encourages collaboration and the usage of untapped Government data. With open data the users simply focus on integrating and processing various datasets without the overhead of costly storing processing, this promotes innovation as it opens up limitless possibilities to use data. Open data has already created value in various areas including improving efficiency and effectiveness of Government services, encouraged innovation, research and the development of new products.


OpenFDA project was launched in 2013 in beta mode by the Taha Kass-Hout, The Chief Health Informatics Officer of FDA, to deliver FDA information using the concepts of open data. openFDA is an elastic search-based API delivering current FDA data sets in a standardized form. Thus far, OpenFDA released data services for adverse events, and drug product labelling and recall enforcement reports (in beta release for developers and not to be used for clinical purposes).

Government agencies, businesses, developers and Citizens can harness the datasets provided by openFDA to extract valuable information to drive policy and health care decisions.

The following are few examples of Data Analysis Reports using data from open FDA APIs. These examples cover different data sets currently available including adverse events, labelling submissions and food Recalls data .

OpenFDA Drug Adverse Events and Labelling Summary

This is a Drug Adverse Events and Labling summary dashboard developed using Tableau and openFDA API.

The upper segment of the dashboard illustrates the drug adverse events reported through different sources on a monthly basis from the year 2004 to 2014. Variations in color indicate the source of the report. The number of adverse events reported has significantly increased over a decade. Manufacturers seem to have reported the maximum number of adverse events.

Adverse event is reported to the FDA when any kind of inconvenience is experienced by a patient as a result of using a particular drug. Everyone associated with the product has the right to report an event caused by the product.

The bottom half of the chart presents summary of Drug labelling submissions released by FDA . The dashboard demonstrates an Increase in the number of labelling submissions from 2009 to 2014. Such visuals offer users to draw important insights which could drive us closer towards newer inventions or improvise existing solutions. With openFDA the users can now just focus on data analysis and simplifies the life of developers and researchers.

Drug Adverse Events Report by Country (Log-scale)

The map below visualizes geographic distribution of the adverse events that were reported worldwide during the first quarter of the year 2013. FDA Adverse event reporting system (FAERS) is the source of data that was used to create this dashboard.

Adverse events were reported by the countries colored in green. No data was reported by the countries marked by the gray. The color shade varies based on the count of adverse events informed, darker the green the higher number of adverse events. Data is log-transformed since the numbers are greatly skewed. United States has 6.221, the highest number of adverse events reported during this time period. Meanwhile, countries in Africa have not reported any such events.

OpenFDA Adverse Events Summary

The overall number of adverse events reported monthly to the FDA from the year 2004 to 2014 are illustrated in first panel. It illustrates visually, event status, event type, source of the adverse events, and the number of adverse events reported in that decade.

FDA Food Recall Events Summary

Interactive report that summarizes the food recall events reported to FDA starting from January 2004 to November 2015. It incorporates various panels that visualize detailed information such as, the status of the recall, severity of threat, recall events, names of firms issuing the recalls, aging report, and a timeline showing the number of recalls. Events section on the bottom lists in detail about all the recalls during this time frame.

Share this post