January 25, 2009

Adverse Drug Reactions should be "tagged" in clouds

Wordle: ADR
Adverse drug reactions (ADRs) are quite common in the elderly, given their longer lists of illnesses and medicationsl in combination with failing kidneys and livers. ADRs are the 4th leading cause of death ahead of pulmonary disease, diabetes, AIDS, pneumonia, accidents and automobile deaths!

Yet a significant portion of reported "side effects" are confounded by other factors -- patients taking medications are sick and they can worsen in certain ways regardless of medications taken.

The U.S. errs on the safe side and reports all known and reported side-effects on the information packet that comes with drugs. These are intimidating and long lists. How are patients and future clinicians (such as myself) supposed to know which are the important side effects to watch out for among the long list of "CYA (cover your anus) reporting/disclosure"?

I propose that all adverse drug reactions and allergies should be in a "tag cloud," the way webpages are tagged with various categories. The most common reactions will grow in font size relative to their frequency. The most cited reactions in journal articles, relative to their danger AND frequency will also grow in size.

This will be a great way to visually assess the important reactions related to a particular drug! Maybe someday, drug interactions will be seen by associating two tag clouds together and noting the strengthened connections.

Center for Drug Evaluation and Research -- Preventable Adverse Drug Reactions: A Focus on Drug Interactions
Nebeker JR Clarifying adverse drug events: a clinician's guide to terminology, documentation, and reporting. Ann Intern Med. 2004 May 18;140(10):795-801.
How to report adverse experiences to the FDA

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