On 15 February 2019, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and Heads of Medicines Agencies (HMA) published their Joint Big Data Taskforce’s summary report (available here) setting out recommendations for understanding the acceptability of evidence derived from ‘big data’ in support of the evaluation and supervision of medicines by regulators.

The Taskforce has sought to clarify the meaning of ‘big data’ within the medicines regulatory context, defining it within the report as: “extremely large datasets which may be complex, multi-dimensional, unstructured and heterogeneous, which are accumulating rapidly and which may be analysed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations. In general big data sets require advanced or specialised methods to provide an answer within reliable constraints”.

The Taskforce was split into seven sub-groups, each focusing on different categories of datasets:

  1. Clinical trials and imaging;
  2. Observational (or ‘Real World’) data;
  3. Spontaneous adverse drug reports (ADR);
  4. Social media and mobile health;
  5. Genomics;
  6. Bioanalytical ‘omics (with a focus on proteomics); and
  7. Data analytics (this work is ongoing and cuts across the above six sub-groups; a further report is expected in Q1 2019).

The sub-groups were each asked, amongst other thing, to characterise their respective datasets; consider the specific areas where big data usability and applicability may add value; assess the existing competencies and expertise present across the European regulatory network regarding the analysis and interpretation of big data; and provide a list of recommendations and a ‘Big Data Roadmap’.

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