Stanford-created algorithm distinguishes medication side effects

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A computer algorithm created by researchers at Stanford University allows doctors to differentiate between drug-related adverse events in patients and adverse events from another illness, according to a study published last week in the journal Science Translational Medicine. The algorithm, FierceBiotechIT reported, was tested on a database of patient and physician adverse event reports housed by the Food and Drug Administration, and confirmed by analyzing electronic health records of patients at Stanford Hospital & Clinics, according to the university.

Specifically, the study determined that irregular heartbeat and even cardiac death can be side effects of an interaction between antidepressants known as SSRIs and blood-pressure medication known as thiazides, according to FierceBiotechIT. Patients taking both were more likely to experience prolonged QT intervals on an electrocardiogram than those taking one or the other, Stanford announced.

Based on the results, the researchers created two databases--OFFSIDES and TWOSIDES: the former database comprises more than 300 new adverse events for more than 1,300 drugs; the latter identifies roughly 1,300 adverse events from more than 59,000 pairs of drugs, according to the Stanford announcement.

"This is a testament to the value of huge data sets," genetics and medical professor Russ Altman, the senior author of research on the study, said, according to the university. "They allow us to throw out a lot of cases. When you start with millions of pieces of information, you can be pretty rigorous about weeding out those that don't match. And if you can arrive at even just a few hundred well-matched cases, that can give a good statistical comparison."

To learn more:
- here's the study abstract
- read the FierceBiotechIT article
- check out the Stanford announcement

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