The availability of large-scale and real-time data on social media has motivated research into adverse drug reactions (ADRs). ADR classification helps to identify negative effects of drugs, which can guide health professionals and pharmaceutical companies in making medications safer and advocating patients’ safety. Based on the observation that in social media, negative sentiment is frequently expressed towards ADRs, this study presents a neural model that combines sentiment analysis with transfer learning techniques to improve ADR detection in social media postings. Our system is firstly trained to classify sentiment in tweets concerning current affairs, using the SemEval17-task4A corpus. We then apply transfer learning to adapt the model to the task of detecting ADRs in social media postings.
We show that, in combination with rich representations of words and their contexts, transfer learning is beneficial, especially given the large degree of vocabulary overlap between the current affairs posts in the SemEval17-
task4A corpus and posts about ADRs. We compare our results with previous approaches, and show that our model can outperform them by up to 3% F-score.