Algorithmic identification of treatment-emergent adverse events from clinical notes using large language models: a pilot study in inflammatory bowel disease

Background and aims:

Outpatient clinical notes are a rich source of information regarding drug safety. However, data in these notes are currently underutilized for pharmacovigilance due to methodological limitations in text mining. Large language models (LLM) like BERT have shown progress in a range of natural language processing tasks but have not yet been evaluated on adverse event detection.


We adapted a new clinical LLM, UCSF BERT, to identify serious adverse events (SAEs) occurring after treatment with a non-steroid immunosuppressant for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). We compared this model to other language models that have previously been applied to AE detection.


We annotated 928 outpatient IBD notes corresponding to 928 individual IBD patients for all SAE-associated hospitalizations occurring after treatment with a non-steroid immunosuppressant. These notes contained 703 SAEs in total, the most common of which was failure of intended efficacy. Out of 8 candidate models, UCSF BERT achieved the highest numerical performance on identifying drug-SAE pairs from this corpus (accuracy 88-92%, macro F1 61-68%), with 5-10% greater accuracy than previously published models. UCSF BERT was significantly superior at identifying hospitalization events emergent to medication use (p < 0.01).


LLMs like UCSF BERT achieve numerically superior accuracy on the challenging task of SAE detection from clinical notes compared to prior methods. Future work is needed to adapt this methodology to improve model performance and evaluation using multi-center data and newer architectures like GPT. Our findings support the potential value of using large language models to enhance pharmacovigilance.

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