The mining of a federal database has revealed a potentially harmful interaction between two very commonly used drugs, a discovery which could impact upwards of one million people in the United States. According to a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Stanford University biomedical informatics graduate student, Nicholas Tatonetti, led a study that found an interaction between the antidepressant, Paxil and the cholesterol-lowering medication, Pravachol, that could potentially put patients at risk for developing diabetes.

Tatonetti and a team of researchers discovered this interaction by applying a specially developed algorithm to the FDA’s Adverse Event Reporting System, which allowed them to analyze “latent signals” to detect diabetes-related side effects. Dr. Tatonetti said in the JAMA article, “This is especially important in the case of drug-drug interactions where the effect may not appear until a very large cohort of patients has been exposed.” The ever-increasing use of electronic medical records could make it easier to identify such adverse drug effects going forward. Moreover, Dr. Tatonetti expressed an optimistic outlook regarding this new strategy for identifying other potentially dangerous drug interactions.

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