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Predicting Side Effects

January 5, 2012

Computer scientists have developed a mathematical model to predict a drug’s side-effects before they can harm patients.



Predicting drug side-effects…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Dangerous drug side-effects often show up only after a drug has been on the market for a number of years. For instance, the arthritis drug Vioxx was recalled in 2004, 5 years after it was approved by the FDA, because of an increased risk of heart attacks. But what if a drug’s unknown side-effects could be predicted? Harvard Medical School computer scientists Ben Reis and Aurel Cami and their colleagues set out to do just that. Cami says they analyzed all the relationships that were known in 2005 between 800 drugs and 850 side-effects.

AUREL CAMI (Children’s Hopsital Boston/Harvard Medical School):

Based only on this 2005 data, our model was able to correctly predict about half of the new drug side-effect relationships that were reported between 2006 and 2010.


What’s more, he says the model only generated a small percentage of false positives. Next, they plan to use the model to predict harmful interactions between different drugs. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.