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March 15, 2012
Side Effects - Lots of Side Effects
Here's a study that suggests that there are a lot more drug-drug interactions than we've ever recognized. (If you don't have access to Science Translational Medicine, here's a summary from Nature News).
Postmarketing surveillance yields huge piles of data that could potentially be mined for such, but it's a messy and heterogeneous pile. This study tries to correct for some of the confounding variables, by attempting to match each patient with a non-treated control patient with as many similarities as possible. They do look to have fished some useful correlations out that no one had ever observed before. For example, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) given with thiazide diuretics seem to be associated with a notably greater risk of the cardiac side effect of QT prolongation, which is a new one.
And while that's good news, you can't help but bury your head in your hands for a least a bit. It turns out that the average number of side effects listed on a full drug label is 69. That might seem to be quite enough, thanks, but this study suggests that about 329 different adverse effects per drug might be more accurate.
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