Web searches could help find dangerous drug interactions quicker

There's No Substitute for Experience

Sometimes after taking a medication, a patient may feel a bit off. In some cases, this may be due to an unknown drug interaction. However, while Tennessee residents should alert their doctors right away whenever there is a perceived negative reaction to a medication, many also first go online to see if they can figure it out on their own.

It turns out, those using the Web to try and figure out what is going may be helping others without even realizing it.

Recently, Microsoft Research Labs and Stanford University joined forces to investigate how Web searches can help the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and pharmaceutical companies more quickly discover dangerous drug interactions. The quicker these dangerous drug interactions are discovered and made public, the better in terms of preventing negative interactions.

The idea is search data can be used in order to see what people are looking for online. This idea came from a 2011 study led by chairman of the Stanford bioengineering department, Dr. Russ Altman. This study found hyperglycemia common among those taking the antidepressant Paxil and the cholesterol-lowering medication Pravachol. After discovering the connection between the two drugs, Altman and the managing director at Microsoft Research questioned if there was a way the Web could have been used to find this dangerous interaction sooner.

Now, the FDA is interested in combining the more traditional forms of detecting dangerous drug interactions --reports filled out after patients visit medical professional to complain -- with this Web search approach in order to improve health.

Of course, the FDA is prepared for there to be some unique challenges in using Web searches to try and find drug safety issues sooner, but the hope is this will result in faster drug interaction discoveries, and therefore, better health for patients.

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