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Study Seeks Predictors of Adverse Drug Events

Kate Traynor

Aetna U.S. Healthcare Inc. has awarded Emory University scientists a $208,162 grant to study the company’s administrative databases and attempt to predict who will have an adverse drug event.

The study, scheduled to begin in October, will combine pharmacy claims data with medical claims and other health profile information maintained by U.S. Quality Algorithms (USQA), an Aetna subsidiary.

Initial plans are to look for potential age-drug interactions in elderly patients, said Kimberly J. Rask, M.D., who will lead the study at Emory in Atlanta, and USQA’s Gregg S. Teitel, Pharm.D., pharmacy director for the project. Teitel noted that the study focus could change, since USQA’s data can be screened for drug-drug, drug-disease, and drug-laboratory interactions as well.

Using an algorithm developed by USQA, Emory scientists will identify patients likely to react adversely to certain drugs, then interview the patients to find out whether an adverse event actually occurred, said Rask.

According to Teitel, the study will "allow us to integrate both pharmacy and medical claims together and create a more clear picture about what’s going on with our membership. And from that we can make inferences about…the severity of their diseases and…the likelihood of them [patients] experiencing an adverse event with their medications."

"Something that we really care about is being able to reduce adverse reactions…outside of hospital settings," said Rask. "In a hospital, you can see who got what when.…In an outpatient setting, it’s a lot harder." She described Aetna’s data as a "really powerful tool" for researching adverse reactions in outpatient settings, where good data sources can be scarce.

Rask pointed out that Aetna’s algorithm, if it works, could also be used with data from other sources. If so, "lots of people could do [this] to improve the quality of care." Teitel agreed, saying the benefits would include "saving lives and improving the quality of health care" while financially benefiting the health care system.

According to Aetna, the grant will be administered by the Academic Medicine and Managed Care Forum, which is composed of Aetna and 50 academic medical centers, teaching hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies.

Rask said she hopes to finish the study in 12 to 18 months.