Introduction: Poor indexing and inconsistent use of terms and keywords may prevent efficient retrieval of studies on the patient-based benefit-risk assessment (BRA) of medicines. We aimed to develop and validate an objectively derived content search strategy containing generic search terms that can be adapted for any search for evidence on patient-based BRA of medicines for any therapeutic area.
Methods: We used a robust multistep process to develop and validate the content search strategy: (1) we developed a bank of search terms derived from screening studies on patient-based BRA of medicines in various therapeutic areas, (2) we refined the proposed content search strategy through an iterative process of testing sensitivity and precision of search terms, and (3) we validated the final search strategy in PubMed by firstly using multiple sclerosis as a case condition and secondly computing its relative performance versus a published systematic review on patient-based BRA of medicines in rheumatoid arthritis.
Results: We conceptualized a final search strategy to retrieve studies on patient-based BRA containing generic search terms grouped into two domains, namely the patient and the BRA of medicines (sensitivity 84%, specificity 99.4%, precision 20.7%). The relative performance of the content search strategy was 85.7% compared with a search from a published systematic review of patient preferences in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. We also developed a more extended filter, with a relative performance of 93.3% when compared with a search from a published systematic review of patient preferences in lung cancer.