Drug Side Effects Discovered through Google Search Analysis

3-13-2013 10-29-30 PM

Researcher teams working together from Stanford, Columbia, and Microsoft have for the first time demonstrated evidence of unreported prescription drug side effects before they were found by the FDA’s warning system.

The teams took a big-data approach to the problem and analyzed search queries entered into Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo search engines to cull out patterns related to specific medications. The data-mining technique used is similar to the one used to power Google’s Flu Trends system.

The researchers were able to demonstrate a relationship between taking paroxetine and pravastatin simultaneously and the increased likelihood of developing hyperglycemia.

“You can imagine how this kind of combination would be very, very hard to study given all the different drug pairs or combinations that are out there.” -  Eric Horvitz, managing co-director of Microsoft Research’s laboratory

Researchers reported strong signals correlating the condition with patients who were actively searching symptoms of the two medications.

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