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Data mining based on queries of search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo leads to valuable information related to drug interactions long before evidence from clinical trials is produced. Researchers examined more than 82 million search engine queries from 6 million unique users during 2010. Queries for the antidepressant paroxetine, the cholesterol suppressant pravastatin, and each drug or both drugs combined with hyperglycemia or symptoms of hyperglycemia were selected. Data mining determined that 1 of 10 people who searched for information related to the 2 drugs together also queried hyperglycemia.


This information is noteworthy because hyperglycemia was not identified as an adverse effect of combining the 2 drugs during clinical trials for each individual drug. The first evidence of hyperglycemia associated with pravastatin and paroxetine taken together was in Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports from nurses, physicians, and patients after both drugs were released on the market. Subsequent research confirmed that hyperglycemia is associated with the combined drugs.


Following the confirmation of the search engine data related to pravastatin, paroxetine, and hyperglycemia, data-mining strategies were used to analyze searchers for 62 other drug combinations queried with hyperglycemia. Half of the drug pairings were previously reported by the FDA to be associated with hyperglycemia, and half were not. The data-mining strategies correctly identified drug pairings associated with hyperglycemia 81% of the time.


Nigam Shah of Stanford University in Palo Alto notes, "If a lot of people are concerned about a symptom (related to the interaction of 2 drugs), that in itself is valuable information." By examining queries on search engines, researchers can identify problems with drug combinations early during public use of the drugs. This information can be followed by empirical research to refute or confirm adverse effects.


Source: Tracy S. Should you mix these two drugs? Ask Dr. Google. March 6, 2013. Science NOW. Available at Accessed March 13, 2013.


Submitted by Robin E. Pattillo, PhD, RN, CNL, News Editor