New computer algorithm identifies drug side effects and interactions
Clinical trials are designed to show that a drug is safe and effective. But even the largest trials can't identify irksome or even dangerous side effects experienced by only a tiny proportion of those people taking the drug. They also aren't designed to study how drugs interact with one another in the human body -- a consideration that becomes increasingly important as people age and their medicine cabinets begin to overflow. Now researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have devised a computer algorithm that enabled them to swiftly sift through millions of reports to the US Food and Drug Administration by patients and their physicians and identify true drug side effects. The method also worked to identify previously unsuspected interactions between pairs of drugs, most notably that antidepressants called SSRIs interact with a common blood pressure medication to significantly increase the risk of a potentially deadly heart condition.