The federal Food & Drug Administration has launched what it's calling Open FDA. Here's how the agency is describing its new program:
OpenFDA is specifically designed to make it easier for web developers, researchers, and the public to access and use the many large, important, health data sets collected by the agency. These publicly available data sets, once successfully integrated and analyzed, can provide knowledge and insights that cannot be gained from any other single source. Consider the 3 million plus reports of drug adverse reactions or medication errors submitted to FAERS, the FDA Adverse Event Reporting System (previously AERS), since 2004. Researchers, scientists, software developers, and other technically-focused individuals in both the private and public sectors have always been invited to mine that publicly available data set – and others – to educate consumers, which in turn can further our regulatory or scientific missions, and ultimately, save lives. … In the past, these vast datasets could be difficult for industry to access and to use. Pharmaceutical companies, for example, send hundreds of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to FDA every year because that has been one of the ways they could get this data. Other methods called for downloading large amounts of files encoded in a variety of formats or not fully documented, or using a website to point-and-click and browse through a database – all slow and labor-intensive processes. OpenFDA will make our publicly available data accessible in a structured, computer-readable format. It provides a “search-based” Application Programming Interface – the set of requirements that govern how one software application can talk to another – that makes it possible to find both structured and unstructured content online. Software developers can now build their own applications (such as a mobile phone app or an interactive website) that can quickly search, query or pull massive amounts of public information instantaneously and directly from FDA datasets in real time on an “as-needed” basis. Additionally, with this approach, applications can be built on one common platform that is free and open to use. Publicly available data provided through openFDA are in the public domain with a CC0 Public Domain Dedication.
For much more information on the program, go here.