Internet searches can identify drug safety issues well ahead of public alerts

The authors base their findings on an analysis of the anonymised search logs of millions of US web users, who agreed to install a browser add-on and share their online searches with Microsoft throughout 2010. The researchers developed automated tools to analyse the queries of people who searched for information on the antidepressant (paroxetine) and a cholesterol lowering drug (pravastatin), using the search engines Google, Bing and Yahoo.

In 2010, it was not yet public knowledge that taking both these two drugs caused high blood sugar (hyperglycaemia), but the authors later extracted this information by mining the US drugs regulator's medicines side effect reporting system (AERS) and confirming the finding in a separate laboratory study.

In the web log study, the authors looked at whether people who had searched online for either one of the drugs separately, or for both of them, would also search with queries containing terms associated with the symptoms of high blood sugar.

In all, they analysed 82 million drug, symptom, and condition queries from among 6 million web users.

They found that online searches for information on prescription drugs was common, with more than one in 250 people looking up at least one of the 100 top selling drugs in the US, including paroxetine and pravastatin.

For people who searched online for both drugs during the 12 month period, queries were made on the same day in almost a third (29.61%) of searches, while four out of 10 were in the same week. Six out of 10 were made within the same month.

During the study period, those people who looked up both drugs online were almost twice as likely to search for terms associated with high blood sugar as were those who looked up the drugs separately.

One in 10 of those looking up both drugs did this, compared with around one in 20 of those looking up each drug separately. Just 0.3% of all users searched for one or more terms associated with high blood sugar over the 12 months.

These differences in search patterns were evident across the whole period of the study, and were not influenced by public information as the discovery of the interaction between this particular pair of drugs was only made in 2011.

Analysis of other 31 drug pair interactions associated with high blood sugar also indicated similar patterns, suggesting that the value of log analysis is not just confined to paroxetine and pravastatin.

"There is a potential public health benefit in listening to such signals, and integrating them with other sources of information," write the authors. "We see a potentially valuable signal, even though search logs are unstructured, not necessarily related to health, and can include any words entered by users," they add.

And they conclude: "We believe that patient search behaviour directly captures aspects of patients' concerns about sensed [symptoms] and can complement more traditional sources of data for pharmacovigilance [drug safety monitoring]."

Most Popular Now

Amgen announces Repatha® (evolocumab) significantl…

Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) has announced that the FOURIER trial evaluating whether Repatha® (evolocumab) reduces the risk of cardiovascular events in patients with clinically ev...

Read more

Too much sitting, too little exercise may accelera…

Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine report that elderly women who sit for more than 10 hours a day with low physical activity have cells ...

Read more

Lilly and CoLucid Pharmaceuticals announce agreeme…

Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE: LLY) and CoLucid Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASD: CLCD) have announced an agreement for Lilly to acquire CoLucid for $46.50 per share or approxim...

Read more

Vitamin D discovery could prove key to new treatme…

A team led by Motonari Uesugi, professor and deputy director of Kyoto University's Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences (iCeMS), found that a vitamin D metabol...

Read more

Structure of atypical cancer protein paves way for…

A team of researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine has helped uncover the elusive structure of a cancer cell receptor protein that can be lever...

Read more

Merck announces research collaboration with Domain…

Merck, a leading science and technology company, today announced it has entered into a collaboration and licensing agreement with Domain Therapeutics, Strasbourg, France...

Read more

AstraZeneca expands 1st-line lung cancer Immuno-On…

AstraZeneca has provided an update on its Immuno-Oncology (IO) late-stage clinical development programme in 1st-line non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), including a refin...

Read more

The drugs don't work, say back pain researchers

Commonly used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, used to treat back pain provide little benefit, but cause side effects, according to new research ...

Read more

Nuts can inhibit the growth of cancer cells

Roasted and salted, ground as a baking ingredient or fresh from the shell - for all those who enjoy eating nuts, there is good news from nutritionists at Friedrich Schill...

Read more

Novo Nordisk enters collaboration with University …

University of Oxford and Novo Nordisk today announced a landmark research collaboration focused on type 2 diabetes. The partnership will enable scientists from Novo Nordi...

Read more

Pfizer reports fourth-quarter and full-year 2016 r…

Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) reported financial results for fourth-quarter and full-year 2016 and provided 2017 financial guidance. Pfizer manages its commercial operations th...

Read more

Anti-inflammatory diet could reduce risk of bone l…

Anti-inflammatory diets - which tend to be high in vegetables, fruits, fish and whole grains - could boost bone health and prevent fractures in some women, a new study su...

Read more

Pharmaceutical Companies

[ A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Z ]