Hack Helps Patients Prevent Adverse Drug Reactions

For anyone who’s ever Googled “what happens when you take [prescription drug] with [other prescription drug],” idodrugs.club is a hack that gives you an answer based on scientific research. You know, so you don’t have to rely on that sketchy Reddit post.

Juan M. Banda, a biomedical informatics researcher at Stanford, has created a tool that helps patients and doctors search through pharmaceutical research, sourced from eight NIH- and FDA-approved medical databases, to learn about adverse reactions to prescription drugs.

“This allows you to put in the drugs you’re taking, and it gives you a summary of each one based on literature,” says Banda. “It’s not someone else’s tweet or post, it’s work that scientists are doing to tie that drug to an adverse event.”

Demoed on stage today at the TechCrunch Disrupt SF Hackathon, idodrugs.club first identifies the chemical ingredient in the drug you enter. “Ritalin,” for instance, is the brand name that most people probably recognize, but “methylphenidate” is the chemical name that will be referenced in any research paper.

Unfortunately, “alcohol” does not count as a drug on this platform, at least from my own (brief) research. So no, this won’t give you a quick answer to what happens when you drink this weekend while you’re still taking those antibiotics you were prescribed last week for your sinus infection.

The hack is potentially a lot more useful for patients with serious conditions who are taking multiple prescription drugs for an extended period of time. The search tool is helpful for surfacing relevant research, but you still have to read through the papers if you want to understand what’s going on.

Banda says he hopes to automate some of this in the future to make it easier for patients to interact with medical research.

“My hope is to make this bigger and let people verify whether these interactions are actually happening or not, because most of the datasets are predictions and not reality,” Banda says.