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Are Drug-Drug Interactions Today’s Biggest Health Threat?
The use of prescription medicines is sharply on the rise. Over the past decade, the number of adults taking over-the-counter medicines has sunk, while the number of prescription drug users has increased by more than 30 percent.
While pharma research has changed millions of lives for the better, the increased risk of adverse drug reactions (ADRs) could cost lives. Adverse drug reactions (ADRs) cost lives. In the year 2013 alone, 142,000 deaths worldwide were traced back to adverse effects of pharmaceutical products. The potential for ADRs increases even more when a patient is taking multiple drugs simultaneously, due not only to potential ADRs from each medicine but also from drug-drug interactions (DDIs).
Despite these facts, research on the effects of DDIs remains strikingly inadequate. In order for clinicians to meet this threat effectively, that needs to change.
As of 2018, only a small number of publications have addressed the issue of DDIs, and the majority of those studies have focused on geriatric patients. Very few researchers have examined DDIs in emergency pediatric care in the U.S., although children are frequently administered more than 25 different drugs during a single hospital visit.
Even this limited research has revealed some disturbing trends: The average patient experiences at least two DDIs in a typical hospital stay, while estimates on the prevalence of DDIs in children and adolescents ranges from 3.8 percent to a full 75 percent of pediatric hospital visits worldwide.
Meeting the threat
DDIs represent a worldwide health threat of unknown magnitude — a threat that very few clinicians are trained to address in a systematic manner. The good news, however, is that a significant amount of raw data on DDIs already exists in electronic medical record systems around the world.
By cross-referencing anonymized patient data with publicly available drug profiles using tools for web-based mining and evaluation of data, research teams (such as those cited above) have begun to build a clearer picture of likely interactions between commonly prescribed medications. The more DDI data these facilities are able to access, the more effectively they can train their staff to anticipate and recognize a wide range of adverse drug reactions, including DDIs.
It is impossible to imagine modern medicine without the continuing contributions of pharmaceutical science. This notably cross-disciplinary field, encompassing biomedical science, pharmacology, chemistry, microbiology, toxicology, genetics, and more, enables the discovery and development of drugs that millions of people depend on. Elsevier’s journals, books, eBooks and online solutions are used every day by researchers and industry professionals.