Scientific article
Open access

Social media and internet search data to inform drug utilization : a systematic scoping review

Published inFrontiers in digital health, vol. 5, 1074961
Publication date2023-03-20
First online date2023-03-20


Drug utilization is currently assessed through traditional data sources such as big electronic medical records (EMRs) databases, surveys, and medication sales. Social media and internet data have been reported to provide more accessible and more timely access to medications' utilization.


This review aims at providing evidence comparing web data on drug utilization to other sources before the COVID-19 pandemic.


We searched Medline, EMBASE, Web of Science, and Scopus until November 25th, 2019, using a predefined search strategy. Two independent reviewers conducted screening and data extraction.


Of 6,563 (64%) deduplicated publications retrieved, 14 (0.2%) were included. All studies showed positive associations between drug utilization information from web and comparison data using very different methods. A total of nine (64%) studies found positive linear correlations in drug utilization between web and comparison data. Five studies reported association using other methods: One study reported similar drug popularity rankings using both data sources. Two studies developed prediction models for future drug consumption, including both web and comparison data, and two studies conducted ecological analyses but did not quantitatively compare data sources. According to the STROBE, RECORD, and RECORD-PE checklists, overall reporting quality was mediocre. Many items were left blank as they were out of scope for the type of study investigated.


Our results demonstrate the potential of web data for assessing drug utilization, although the field is still in a nascent period of investigation. Ultimately, social media and internet search data could be used to get a quick preliminary quantification of drug use in real time. Additional studies on the topic should use more standardized methodologies on different sets of drugs in order to confirm these findings. In addition, currently available checklists for study quality of reporting would need to be adapted to these new sources of scientific information.

  • Google trends
  • Drug utilization
  • Internet search
  • Social media
  • Surveillance
  • Systematic scoping review
  • User-generated data
Citation (ISO format)
KELLER, Roman et al. Social media and internet search data to inform drug utilization : a systematic scoping review. In: Frontiers in digital health, 2023, vol. 5, p. 1074961. doi: 10.3389/fdgth.2023.1074961
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Article (Published version)
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ISSN of the journal2673-253X

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