Data mining of electronic health records and an adverse-event database has led to the discovery of an unexpected and dangerous side effect that could result from a combination of two commonly used medications, a group of researchers reports.
Data mining finds drug-combo danger
According to a report on the study published online in the journal Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, the researchers analyzed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's adverse-event reporting database and electronic health-record data from Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif.; Vanderbilt University, Nashville; and Harvard Medical School, Boston.
They found that the combination of the antidepressant Paxil and the cholesterol-reducing drug Pravachol could potentially lead to spikes in blood glucose levels, though neither drug causes such increases when taken alone.
Between 500,000 and 1 million people in the U.S. may be taking both drugs, the researchers said in the study.
The study's lead author, Dr. Russ Altman, Stanford professor of bioengineering, genetics and medicine, said the findings clearly demonstrate the usefulness of data mining in research.
"It's very exciting because we were led to this conclusion by mining data that already exists but of which many people were skeptical," Altman said in a Stanford Medical School news release. "Physicians tend to think of electronic medical records as ways to better track data about single patients, but there's another really important component to them—their utility in looking at population effects. The information is there to change healthcare practice in a meaningful, substantial way."
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