Modern drugs with their complex mode of action and an aging population taking a greater variety of medicines are among causes that have led to an increase in the number of adverse drug reactions in patients.
Adverse drug reactions are not only a risk to the health of patients but are also a burden on healthcare systems. It has been estimated that one-in-seven patients may suffer an adverse drug reaction from their medications. In the United Kingdom alone, adverse drug reactions are estimated to cost over a billion dollars each year.
Patients of all ages report adverse drug reactions, although the youngest and oldest are the most vulnerable. This is a problem in both the developed world and the developing world, and is not confined to conventional medicine, as they can occur with complementary and alternative therapies.
While common adverse drug reactions have been identified, the full range of reactions that might occur, for example, as a result of a drug interacting with other drugs in a specific person presents a much greater challenge.
Fortunately, promising new breakthroughs in drug development and health monitoring may enhance drug safety in the future. Three innovations in particular help meet and overcome the challenge of adverse drug reactions.
The first is electronic medical records, which are increasingly being used to store patient data and are a valuable resource for scientists. The second innovation lies in new computer-based statistical tools that analyze data from medical records and other sources, such as academic studies and even social media, to pick out hidden trends in adverse drug reactions. And, then there is personalized medicine, where genetic information is used to target drugs at very specific patient populations.
Together these three innovation help better identify patients and populations at increased risk and offer great potential in identifying, treating and hopefully preventing adverse drug reactions in the common pursuit of better drug therapy for all.