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Digital clues for healthier drug combinations: Stanford’s Russ Altman at TEDMED

Imagine you’re a patient who has just started taking two new drugs: one for high cholesterol and the other for depression. Each drug has been tested, evaluated for side effects and approved by the FDA, so your physician feels confident that you’ll be fine taking these medications. Independently at least. What’s less clear is how these two drugs could interact when taken together, or with any other medication you may already be taking.

This is the scenario that Russ Altman, MD, PhD, a professor of bioengineering, genetics, medicine and computer science at Stanford, invited the audience to contemplate at TEDMED 2015.

In his talk, he underscored the importance of researching drug interactions by pointing out how few studies address what happens when different drugs are taken together even though this information could yield new drug treatments or help patients avoid potentially harmful side effects.

Then, Altman outlined some ways we can begin to assess these complex interactions by using data mined from Electronic Medical Records and Internet searches done by patients who are curious to know if the symptoms they feel are side effects from the drugs they're taking.

A video of Altman's TEDMED presentation is now available online. If you have a few minutes, I highly recommend watching the video and exploring other talks on the TEDMED site.

Previously: SPARK program helps researchers cross the “valley of death” between drug discovery and developmentAt TEDMED 2015: Using data to maximize human potentialAt TEDMED 2015: How microbiome studies could improve the future of humanity and Stanford Medicine partners with TEDMED on "first-ever gathering on the West Coast"
Video courtesy of TEDMED; photo in thumbnail by Rod Searcey

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