Modeling Drug Side EffectsCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: June 12, 2012 11:53AM
As I watch television and come across an ad for some medication, it is almost impressive the number of side effects one drug can have. Each one of those effects has been carefully studied before the drug came to market, top ensure it is not too dangerous. In fact, unacceptable side effects are the second most common reason a drug does not come to market, with effectiveness being the number one reason. Developing a drug to the state that it can be tested for approval is not cheap though with some estimates putting the cost at $1 billion across fifteen years, and other estimates at $4-12 billion, per successfully approved drug. To help cut costs and increase our understanding of these drugs, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco have created a computer model to identify side effects.
The model was given 656 drugs that have already been carefully studied and documented and identified unintentional targets half of the time. Medications work by attaching to specific targets in the body. These targets are not always unique to the intended target though, so the drug does more than expected. Of the 1241 possible side effects the model identified, 348 are confirmed, and another 151 are potential side effects not previously documented, but have since been confirmed. One of those undocumented side effects though is one that has been confusing researchers for some time. An artificial form of estrogen has been reported to cause stomach pain for years, but the cause was never determined. The model found it is interacting with a target linked to aspirin, which is known to cause stomach pain.