In 2007, Congress directed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to create a new postmarketing surveillance system that will, by 2012, be using electronic health data from 100 million people to prospectively monitor the safety of marketed medical products. This new system is intended to complement existing systems of “spontaneous” adverse-event reporting. In May 2008, the FDA announced the Sentinel Initiative, which would “access the capabilities of multiple, existing data systems (i.e., electronic health record systems, medical claims databases).” The network of data systems is intended both to detect signals (i.e., higher-than-expected rates of adverse outcomes) and to confirm signals, including those suggested by other sources, and to do so rapidly and quantitatively. At a recent Senate hearing before her confirmation, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg stated that close postmarketing monitoring of medical-product safety would remain a high priority during her tenure.
Platt, Richard, Marcus Wilson, K. Arnold Chan, Joshua S. Benner, Janet Marchibroda, and Mark McClellan. “The New Sentinel Network -- Improving the Evidence of Medical-Product Safety.” N Engl J Med 361, no. 7 (August 13, 2009): 645-647.