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Using Google To Help Predict Side Effects of Mixing Drugs

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the dr.-everyone dept.

AI 47

sciencehabit writes "Pharmaceuticals often have side effects that go unnoticed until they're already available to the public. Doctors and even the FDA have a hard time predicting what drug combinations will lead to serious problems. But thanks to people scouring the web for the side effects of the drugs they're taking, researchers have now shown that Google and other search engines can be mined for dangerous drug combinations. In a new study, scientists tried the approach out on predicting hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. They found that the data-mining procedure correctly predicted whether a drug combo did or did not cause hypoglycemia about 81% of the time."

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And the new troll game is (2)

maroberts (15852) | about a year and a half ago | (#43103383)

...seeding Google with false comments on drugs to produce something similar to the Santorum effect.

Re:And the new troll game is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43103521)

Besides, what good does this do anyway? If the Internet proves anything, it's that the average person would rather ask a stupid question* and depend on strangers to hold their hand for minutes or hours, than Google it and get good answers in seconds.

* Definition: a stupid question is one you could easily answer yourself with effort less than or equal to what it would take to ask someone else.

Re:And the new troll game is (1)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | about a year and a half ago | (#43105473)

Besides, what good does this do anyway? If the Internet proves anything, it's that the average person would rather ask a stupid question* and depend on strangers to hold their hand for minutes or hours, than Google it and get good answers in seconds.

True. But when it comes to remediation, I'd rather be dealing with stupid questions than stupid mistakes...

Re:And the new troll game is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43103953)

Just make sure you include in all your replies.

Better than chance (2, Insightful)

BSAtHome (455370) | about a year and a half ago | (#43103395)

81% is better than a coin flip, but 19% chance of dying (or worse) using Google Doctor(TM) advice is maybe not as good as a Real Doctor(TM).

Maybe they should try BigPharma(TM) commercials instead and find a reverse-cross-correlation?

Re:Better than chance (2)

ranulf (182665) | about a year and a half ago | (#43103431)

Also, people don't google when they are taking drugs and not suffering side effects, people google multiple times with different queries when they do &c, so there's little in the way of accuracy in the numbers of people affected in each case.

The only sensible way to interpret the numbers provided is "for the symptoms found b y this approach for a given drug, there's a 20% chance the symptom isn't in fact caused by this drug at all." Which makes it pretty useless for determining symtpoms that are hard to detect.

Re:Better than chance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43106631)

No, the other sensible way to interpret the data is: give this suspected drug interaction side effect a priority in the next round of state-funded medical studies.

Re:Better than chance (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about a year and a half ago | (#43103455)

I hope this ends better for the non-medically trained researcher(s) than looking up symptoms and positing which disease one's suffering from.

Re:Better than chance (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43103493)

whooosh, the doctors doesnt have a clue, thats why they are doing this

Re:Better than chance (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43103511)

You are confusing the matter. The algorithm isn't prescribing medicine, it is just reviewing bad mixes. If a bad mix is found, then researchers can validate that and use that to train doctors and put warnings on medication.

Re:Better than chance (3, Insightful)

Twinbee (767046) | about a year and a half ago | (#43103523)

I'm sure for some rarer drug combinations, 81% is a lot better than most real doctors could hope for. They're not infallible.

Re:Better than chance (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43104153)

Doctors are not even close to infallible. I suffered a severe injury (SCI) six years ago and as a result I'm quite acquainted with lots of doctors and lots of prescription drugs. I'm currently taking eight different meds daily, some delivered via intrathecal pump directly into my CSF. (This is after several attempts to prune down my list of medications and dosages as much as possible.)

With that many (mostly somewhat unusual) meds floating around in my system, and the fact that each person might experience different reactions, none of my numerous doctors can predict what interactions and side effects I might experience. They usually just tell me to ramp up on a new med slowly, ramp down on old meds slowly, and call them if anything strange happens. Even with that degree of caution, I've ended up in an ER with dangerous (and terrifying) interaction effects. And in those situations my doctors have always expressed indifferent "oh well, guess we need to try something else" attitudes.

So for me Google has been quite valuable in researching potential side effects and interactions that have been experienced by real people with similar medical profiles. Based on this research I've refused some drugs docs have suggested, and suggested some drugs all my docs have overlooked. Since taking the driver's seat with my own regimen based on internet research I've been MUCH better than I was when I just accepted the words of the "experts".

The 81%/19% statistic mentioned above doesn't mean you will have a 19% chance of dying if you take Dr. Google's advice. I see this as a potentially useful tool that streamlines one particular use that lots of people like me are already using Google for. Combined with a doctor's experience and (most importantly) my own knowledge and experiences, it might be quite valuable.

Re:Better than chance (1)

fbobraga (1612783) | about a year and a half ago | (#43106343)

+1 Informative

Re:Better than chance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43103625)

They simply class it as proprietary information.
People sue the companies, the people lose.
New precedent is set on what information must be released (even less than before).
People are still getting fucked over, but for even more money.

With crap like that, can you really blame people for believing in homeopathic remedies more than drugs and doctors?,0,6261931.story

Nobody knows what's inside pills, and nobody with money to care, does.

Re:Better than chance (4, Insightful)

jkflying (2190798) | about a year and a half ago | (#43103731)

The question is whether this 81% is better than Real Doctor. The assumption that Real Doctor gets everything right is, from personal experience, wrong.

Re:Better than chance (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#43103863)

Maybe they should try BigPharma(TM) commercials instead and find a reverse-cross-correlation?

Presumably if they did that, it would tell you never to prescribe anything to anyone for anything.

Hmm, I find your ideas intriguing...

Re:Better than chance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43104935)

Or, maybe if googledoc indicates that a particular combination of drugs has an 81% chance of causing problems, that could be the starting point for someone to run a proper study on that drug combination to give a more definitive answer.

Or maybe this same datamining technique could be improved to give a better than 81% certainty.

I mix drugs before I create my HOST files (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43103421)

$10,000 CHALLENGE to Alexander Peter Kowalski

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Humans fear to know natures simultaneous +4 Insightful +4 Informative +4 Funny +4 Underrated harmonic SLASHDOT creation for it debunks false trolls. Test Your HOSTS file. MyCleanPC cannot harm a File of Truth, but will delete fakes. Fake HOSTS files refuse test.

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My reputation as a professional in this field clearly shows in multiple publications in this field in written print, & also online in various GOOD capacities since 1996 to present day. This has happened since I was first published in Playgirl Magazine in 1996 & others to present day, with helpful tools online in programs, & professionally sold warez that were finalists @ Westminster Dog Show 2000-2002.

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Ac trolls' "BIG FAIL" (quoted): Eat your words!

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Hyper- not Hypoglycemia (2)

mystikkman (1487801) | about a year and a half ago | (#43103453)

It was hyperglycemia, not hypoglycemia, the exact opposite. Also, the research was helped by Microsoft, while Google is plastered all over the summary with nary a mention of Microsoft.

Re:Hyper- not Hypoglycemia (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43103579)

It was hyperglycemia, not hypoglycemia, the exact opposite.

Oh man, you were actually expecting Slashdot staff ("editors") to EDIT something?

That's hilarious! You must be new here. They think the title "editor" sounds good, so they use it. But they don't actually do that sort of thing. Ever. At all costs.

article says they used microsoft (2)

alen (225700) | about a year and a half ago | (#43103539)

specifically data from IE about search queries to all the search engines

Re:article says they used microsoft (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#43103871)

So then they are logging queries no matter the search engine?

Yeah, that sounds really like they respect your privacy.

This is their Google scraping again?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43103945)

So this is their Google scraping again, the one they pretended was an 'innovative search algo', but basically amounted to watched what their users typed into Google and recording the URL they went to from Google.!-Caught-Scraping-Google!

I thought they'd stopped that after threats of a privacy lawsuit!? Seriously are you saying their recording medical conditions of their users and making that data public? Even if aggregated?
I thought medical data had Federal Criminal protection, not just privacy protection. As in, it would be a crime for Microsoft to intercept that data.

Re:This is their Google scraping again?! (1)

fbobraga (1612783) | about a year and a half ago | (#43106411)

+1 Informative (i really need mod points...)

Not entirely surprising (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43103555)

If correlated correctly, the entire sum of human knowledge on the internet is more likely to come up with a correct answer than an average doctor using the database within their brain. Gee, who would have thought it?

Of course the correct methodology would be to have doctors doing the Googling. I would hope that professional pride would not prevent physicians from using an established "expert system" to improve the outcomes for their patients.

Re:Not entirely surprising (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | about a year and a half ago | (#43103841)

"If correlated correctly", yes, but correlation is a difficult one for these kinds of searches.
Not every doctor can simply do this. The results of the search were used as a guide which drug interaction to test. There are thousands of drugs. That's a lot of possible interactions.
An example: Assume there are 10,000 different drugs (I have no clue how many there actually are). To test all of the possible interactions all these drugs you need 100,000,000 tests and these tests are expensive.

For this study they used google to narrow down the combinations. Of all the drug combinations that caused hyperglycemia according to google they found (after testing) that 81% did actually cause it. I'd say that means they have used their money very effectively (although it is not known how many of the drug combinations in total cause hyperglycemia).

The opinion of a doctor is still far more reliable than a google search.

Hmmm.... (2)

QilessQi (2044624) | about a year and a half ago | (#43103575)

(Googles "microsoft windows, caffeine, death". )

About 7,950,000 results (0.33 seconds)

Seems legit.

The other 19%... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43103613)

...were results like drug x + drug y = anal sex

Because getting medical advice from the web is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43103623)

...the dumbest thing you can do. I can just see the guys at 4chan flooding forums with "omg i took 10 viagra and 5 xanax and my tumour is gone!!" to skew this data mining. There is no substitute for proper one on one medical advice.

No joke (5, Insightful)

NormHome (99305) | about a year and a half ago | (#43103761)

I don't know how many people here have elderly parents but my mother is on over ten prescription medications and I've strongly suspected for years that some issues she's having are undocumented drug interactions. I've talked to several of her doctors and the best that they can come up with is "Sorry, there's no real data to support that theory / claim; nothing I can do".

There really needs to be a system in place to gather data on people who are on this level of medication and try and figure out if some of their problems that started after they were on combinations of medication are related.

Re:No joke (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43104699)

So my grandmother was in declining health (~90) recently and everyone we talked to Doctor wise had nothing helpful to contribute until one doctor stepped in and finally said, "If you put her in hospice they will completely reevaluate her meds and odds are she'll get better." No doc was willing to take her off of anything outside of hospice because of liability concerns if she got worse / died. We put her in hospice, they pulled back a bunch of meds and now she's alert and regaining lost weight (weight that she needs, not getting fat).

Re:No joke (1)

bjdevil66 (583941) | about a year and a half ago | (#43104921)

There really needs to be a system in place to gather data on people who are on this level of medication

It'd be too Big Brotherish for too many people - especially the older generations that need that data gathering the most.

Re:No joke (1)

NormHome (99305) | about a year and a half ago | (#43105649)

I realize that would concern a lot of people and HIPA regulations may come into play but there are a lot of elderly people having a lot of problems because they're on a "cocktail" of more than six medications and many are having undocumented drug interactions. There has to be a way to gather anonymous statistics that doctors and pharmacists can use to better say to patients "Doctor B is prescribing ABCXYZ and that may cause you problems because you're already taking DEFXYZ and GHIXYZ medications and adding ABCXYZ could cause you to have so and so side effect".

Re:No joke (1)

toebob (1996944) | about a year and a half ago | (#43105803)

I used to work for a pharma supporting a system that does exactly this. All pharmas have a system like this mandated by law. It's called adverse event tracking. You tell your doctor "I had effect D while taking drugs X, Y, and Z". The doctor reports this to the pharmas that make X, Y, and Z and it is all tracked for potential causality. The difficulties arise if there are too few people who have that side effect while taking that combination of medicine. If the occurrence is too rare there isn't enough statistical data to show causality. That's why all the commercials say "side effects may include ..." because some portion of patients on the medicine had those symptoms and causality may not be determined.

Re:No joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43107427)

You need to talk to a pharmacist. They have a doctorate in pharmacology. I don't mean a lab tech, I mean a pharmacist. Doctors actually know very little about drug interactions as you heard in their responses. Yet I've read on this site and many others how people talk/complain to their doctor who has NEVER been trained in anything but the basics of pharmacology(that's right the equivalent of 1 semester), and yet are still surprised to this day that their doctor is no better than themselves at diagnosing drug interactions.

I know a pharmacist who has to call doctors almost daily to say, " Dr. ______ you can't give your patient __________ in combination with __________. You will kill them!" That's actually a quote and yes it happens that often, although not always related to death but concerning serious complications. Doctors are not the gods they like to think themselves and make you believe. Of course the patient trying to have the order filled usually gets in a huff with the pharmacist who refused to fill the order until they can speak with the doctor. If people would just slow down and ask questions they would realize the pharmacist just saved your life.

So to sum up, someone with a Pharm.D(pharmacy doctorate)has the same number of years of school and supervised training as a medical Dr.(docatorate), assuming no specialization in either profession. A pharmacist trained almost completely in drug interactions with the human body. A doctor trained almost completely in diagnosing problems of the human body. Of course in both professions, the more years of experience gained, they better they get.

Talk to your pharmacist they know much more than doctors or even patients give them credit for. They know what they are talking about, they will save your life.

Re:No joke (1)

NormHome (99305) | about a year and a half ago | (#43112361)

Thanks for the information, I'll see what I can do. I've been having a hell of a time talking to my parents doctor's, even though they've signed forms saying that the doctors can discuss their medical information with me the doctor's keep forgetting that and it's days and weeks before I hear back from them. I'm sure that the Pharmacist will insist on some kind of similar paperwork.

Re:No joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43113623)

I think much of it is that doctors give an official response, but if you ask nurses personally to give you an answer based on their experience, nurses who have been working in the related field for years, they may give a different answer.

Wait what? (1)

ilsaloving (1534307) | about a year and a half ago | (#43104123)

The only way stuff could be on google, is if said stuff already happened. ie: People having already suffered the consequences of dangerous drug interactions.

While it's certainly useful to have this knowledge, I fail to see how this translates to 'predicting' drug interaction. If people are googling for a combination of drug + a specific side effect, then they either are trying to find out if such an effect exists, or they have reason to suspect that such an effect exists, which *somebody* likely (and inadvertently) discovered that interaction the hard way.

Re:Wait what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43107051)

The idea is to predict it for future patients. If Google can gather that a substantial amount of people taking MedC and MedX at the same time end up with Brain Shivers then you can tell a patient "If you start taking MedX, while you're taking MedC, be on the lookout for Brain Shiver symptoms; It is not an official interaction, but enough people complain about it."

Don't get this (1)

symes (835608) | about a year and a half ago | (#43104317)

Presumably the idea is that people experiencing reactions to drug combinations will go in the web and look for advice. And in so doing, we can use Google to pick up on this chatter and therefore determine adverse effects. So, the drugs are already on market and out there being consumed. Surely it would be far better to just have good old fashioned surveillance through clinic staff... less noise, etc. i don't see the advantage of using Google to reveal interactions in drugs that are already out there.

Weird use of the tem "predict" (1)

mbone (558574) | about a year and a half ago | (#43104431)

This research (AFAICT from readying the original article, but not the scientific papers behind it) is not about prediction at all, it is about discovery. Google and Bing are not "A Logic Named Joe," about to infer subtle connections between different medical research papers and predict troubles when two drugs are combined. They just uncover when people are searching on (and thus, potentially having) multiple sets of symptoms. The difference is rather crucial - if two drugs have lethal side effects when combined, Google and Bing could only uncover that fact once people started dying.

A corollary is that a medically themed advice engine could discover these connections even faster if it had the same critical mass (for example, once it started to see a pattern, it could ask people inquiring about symptom X if they also have symptom Y). Now, if you could only get that past the malpractice attorneys...

It's a specious advancement (1)

xyourfacekillerx (939258) | about a year and a half ago | (#43105627)

The sad, pathetic fact is you need to mine the data to find relevant information. Humans themselves don't have the time or patience to do this type of research manually, and it's an unrealistic burden that we should all be equipped with data mining and analytical tools just so we can use google's otherwise useless map of the web to find out, for example, whether prednisone can cause intense suicidal ideation when given in combination with fluoxetine. (Which is semi-standard FDA packaging warning for prednisone, but good luck finding official citations to this fact among your first three google search results pages...) if your results were like mine you got a dozen auto-gen'ed pagecopies full of chat bots in floating div's. The other dozen results, google lists strong matches in its page summary, but text containing the match is nowhere to be found on the linked result. How productive!

Trying to use google to do your own drug interaction homework is a total nightmare.

Pharmacists not doctors (1)

kbahey (102895) | about a year and a half ago | (#43105761)

IUTBAP (I used to be a pharmacist).

One of the things we studied were drug interactions.

Basically pharmacists are more qualified to know these interactions, because they studied pharmacology, as well as pharmaceutics (how drugs are presented, what each form's method of spreading to the affected area(s) are, ...etc.)

The clinical pharmacy movement was started back several decades ago, so doctors would diagnose, then pharmacists would prescribe together with the doctors, taking into account many things, like other patient health issues, drug interactions, ...etc.

But, this will not happen, because big pharma markets to doctors so they prescribe their brand over the competition.

Sad to see the state of affairs status quo as they were in the early 80s.

Don't take iron supplements with Viagra (1)

moeinvt (851793) | about a year and a half ago | (#43107079)

Impairs your navigational ability because you're always pointing North.

Comments from users (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43107703)

Presenting now comments from actual drug users on this story:

"Uh ah uh uh ah sorry that your car? Cos I just clicked cos theres drugs in title I mean says drugs in title know what I mean."

Microsoft Research Did it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43111699)

Read the full article

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