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January 20, 2010
A Database of Side Effects
There's probably a lot of undiscovered information sitting out there in clinical trial data sets. And while I was just worrying the other day about people with no statistical background digging through such things, I have to give equal time to the flip side: having many different competent observers taking a crack at these numbers would, in fact, be a good thing.
Here's one effort of that sort, as detailed in Molecular Systems Biology. The authors have set up a database of all the side-effect information released through package inserts of approved drugs, which was much more of a pain than it sounds like, since the format of this information isn't standardized.
Looking over their data, the drugs with the highest number of side effects are the central nervous system agents, which makes sense. Many of these are polypharmacological; I'm almost surprised they aren't even worse by a wider margin. Antiparasitics have the fewest side effects (possibly because some of these don't even have to be absorbed?), followed by "systemic hormonal preparations". To be fair, the CNS category has the largest number of drugs in it, and those other two have the least, so this may be just a sampling problem. At a glance, one category that seems to have a disproportionate number of side effects, compared its number of approved drugs, is the "genitourinary/sex hormone" class, with muskoskeletal agents also making a stronger showing than their numbers might indicate.
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