Newswise – For more than 20 years, the University of Washington has housed a database built, maintained and developed around the goal of helping to prevent health complications from adverse drug reactions, one of main causes injuries and deaths in health care facilities.
This year, the UW School of Pharmacy Drug Interaction Database, or DIDB – the basic research tool of the school’s nonprofit Drug Interaction Solutions organization — famous both a national award for innovation and its independent funding since 2002 through licensing agreements with companies, research institutes and regulatory bodies around the world.
“The American Society for Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics award is great recognition of the impact we have had in the field of drug development,” said Dr. Isabelle Ragueneau-Majlessi, co-founder of DIDB and director of Drug Interaction Solutions. “We built something from the ground up at the University of Washington, and now it’s internationally recognized as an authoritative research tool, with over 180 organizations from 40 different countries as subscribers.”
The Drug Interaction Database is a highly detailed and structured cross-entry matrix designed to assist research and regulatory scientists from universities, pharmaceutical companies and other organizations in their evaluation of drug interactions and safety medication. Database entries are curated by UW scientists from a wide range of drug-related materials, including clinical studies, drug developer publications, toxicity case reports, and reviews of new drug applications from the FDA.
The database is continually updated as new drug information becomes available. Currently, the site has over 170,000 entries involving in vitro (or “test-tube experiments”) and in vivo (in humans) data on metabolic enzymes and drug transporters (proteins in the body that help drugs to move from one organ to another); interactions with other drugs or with foods, herbs, tobacco and genes; and other factors.
Drug Interaction Solutions’ team of experts not only thoroughly reviews drug interaction information, but also helps researchers use the system effectively.
“The impetus for starting this database came from my work with antiepileptic drugs. My eureka moment occurred in 1994 when I was able to separate the clinical interactions of the drug phenytoin (Dilantin) based on two distinct enzymes but related. This ‘discovery’ propelled my efforts to further develop the database,” said Rene Levy, the DIDB’s founder and principal investigator until 2009, when he retired from UW. Levy has widely published in the area of drug elimination and drug interactions and remains an advisor to the Director.
“This award recognizes the excellence and dedication of the team of database researchers, as well as the contribution I received from colleagues in the departments of pharmacy and medicinal chemistry in the School of Pharmacy and the Department of Neurological Surgery from the School of Medicine,” Lévy said.
After laying out the plan for building the database and recruiting Ragueneau-Majlessi, Levy was able to secure initial funding through seed grants from several pharmaceutical companies. In 2002, the university began allowing access to the database by an arrangement with UW CoMotion. Since then, Drug Interaction Solutions has remained a not-for-profit enterprise with licensing revenue used to cover scientific and technical maintenance costs, as well as the development of new features.
“The DIDB is a great example of university-based innovation being maintained by the university and made available as products directly to customers, as opposed to being licensed to others or spun off as a company “, said Roi Eisenkot, senior innovation manager at CoMotion. “As a long-time partner of the program, UW CoMotion is working with the team to grow its licensing offerings and expand into new markets, while supporting all contractual partner activities such as risk management, distributors, fee collection and license renewals.”
While the database is not intended for direct use by physicians in clinical settings, Ragueneau-Majlessi explained, it is moving in that direction through the integration of its data into tools that help physicians make medication choices and managing adverse drug interactions.
According to the FDA, two-thirds of patient visits result in a prescription, and more drug combinations are being used to treat patients. Adverse drug effects ‘rise exponentially with four or more drugs’, agency says writing. In addition, herbal medicines and food products (including fruit juices) can significantly affect various common medications, so multi-drug interactions are common in clinical situations.
“It should not be acceptable that a person can receive two drugs with a major adverse interaction when we know the mechanism behind this interaction,” said Ragueneau-Majlessi. “We have the mechanistic and quantitative understanding that allows us to predict drug interactions, and that’s very powerful clinically. Adverse drug interactions can be avoided.
On its website, the Drug Interaction Solutions team States the DIDB can support the growth of personalized medicine and the trend to select the most appropriate drug and dose for each unique patient.
“I really believe this is the next step for the database,” Ragueneau-Majlessi said. “We are now in the era of precision dosing and personalized therapy. And, while we can’t prevent all drug interactions, we can manage them. If you understand the mechanism of the drug and its interactions, you can ensure that an individual patient is not negatively affected. Knowledge is power.
Lévy and Ragueneau-Majlessi will officially receive the Gary Neil Award for Innovation in Drug Development of the American Society for Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics in March at the society’s annual meeting. The award honors clinical pharmacology scientists who “have demonstrated leadership in applying important and innovative science to clinical drug development.”
For more information, contact Marie-Christine Bodinier, senior marketing manager for Drug Interaction Solutions, at [email protected].