Tag Archives: new app

Rapid detection tool

Australian researchers develop Big Data tool to test new medicines

Australian scientists have developed a rapid detection tool to map the effects of new medicines already on the market, potentially saving millions of health practitioners from prescribing medicines with lesser-known yet serious side effects.

Lead researcher Dr Nicole Pratt, a senior research fellow at the University of South Australia‘s School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences, has been working with the Asian Pharmacoepidemiology Network (AsPEN) to develop a mathematical algorithm that charts the temporal relationship between a new medicine and reports of adverse side effects around the globe.

“At the time a new medicine is first released onto the market less than 50% of the side effects are known.”

The rapid detection tool is able to quickly analyse large population datasets of up to 200 million people, containing information about the time a patient is prescribed a new medicine (captured at the point of purchase) and recorded hospitalisation events.

“We look at the link between starting a new medicine and a hospitalisation event and determine whether there is an association between those two events,” says Pratt.

At the time a new medicine is first released onto the market less than 50% of the side effects are know.

On average, new medicines are tested on less than 2000 people before they are prescribed – too few to determine if rarer, serious side effects exist.

Pratt’s rapid detection tool has the potential to become a real time surveillance tool for drug administration bodies, researchers and general practitioners, helping them to identifying the effects of new medications before they lead to widespread complications.

“We’d like to see it reach the point where we are constantly looking at the data and trying to capture problems as soon as they happen rather than let them happen for years and years and then do a big study to find that there have been a whole heap of heart attacks.”

The tool is already being used in several countries, including Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Canada and Australia to look at the side effects of a heartburn medication prescribed for reflux, and a medication for diabetes associated with heart failure.

In analysing the populations’ use of the heartburn medication, “all of the datasets found very similar results in terms of this medicine causing serious gastrointestinal infections,” says Pratt.

But when they analysed the diabetes medication, Pratt says they started to see differences between the five countries, indicating the drug might have a different effect on people depending on their ethnic background.

“When we looked at the association in the Asian population, we weren’t able to see the effect, but when we looked in the Caucasian population in Australia and Canada, we found the association.

“So the application is to start to look at whether there is some genetic differences in the way people respond to medicines and know what the risks and the benefits might be across ethnicities,” she says.

One of the challenges Pratt faced in developing the highly mathematical tool has been making it accessible for more people.

She says UniSA Professor Libby Roughead has been instrumental in helping her to apply the numerical tool visually in a “real-world” healthcare setting.

At the moment, “the datasets are held by either the governments or the hospitals in each of the countries, but the actual output of the tool should be available to general practitioners, scientists and regulators,” says Pratt.

“So what we are trying to do is visually provide an output to the people who are going to use it at the point of prescribing medicines.”

“Some of the things we’ve been trying to do is look at how the data can tell you stories, rather than just give you numbers.”

At the moment the tool produces a visual graph charting when medicines are prescribed and superseded across populations, while highlighting peaks in adverse effects at certain points in time.

“I’d like to see s this work integrated into the regulatory systems of all these countries and make it a world-wide surveillance system.”

Pratt met with her colleagues from AsPEN in Thailand this week, to discuss the global expansion of the rapid detection tool.

This article was first published by The Lead on 24 November 2015. Read the original article here.

Food recall app

Food recall app

For Prof Andreas Lopata, his ‘eureka’ moment came during the frozen mixed berries and hepatitis A food scare in April 2015: “I thought, ‘what about an app to warn people of food recalls?’” explains the molecular immunologist and ARC Future Fellow based at the College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences, James Cook University.

In collaboration with his PhD student Michael Sheridan, Lopata set about developing a food recall app called FoodRecall Aus AppTM – the first app of its kind in Australia, which works by sending out daily RSS news feeds from the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) and Australian Food News websites.

The news feeds alert users to recently recalled food products, and includes information about the reason for the recall and the location of the outlets (such as stores, suppliers and so on).

After initially struggling to secure backers for the project, the duo decided to fund the project themselves, with the FSANZ providing the technical expertise to access the RSS feeds.

Food recall, as defined by FSANZ is “an action taken to remove from sale, distribution and consumption foods which may pose a safety risk to consumers”. Once a food product is identified as being potentially harmful to the public, a recall can occur after consultation between state and territory government authorities and the product’s supplier, who could be the manufacturer or importer.

“With over 80 food recalls so far this year, 2015 has seen the highest number of food recalls ever recorded in the history of FSANZ,” says Lopata.

“Many have been imported coconut-based products, like coconut milk and other drinks containing undeclared dairy milk, which are often not subject to the same strict guidelines around production and labeling as those manufactured in Australia.”

Frozen seafood, fruit and vegetables are among the many processed foods Australia imports, according to the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

Processed foods are food products that have gone through many processing steps and often contain additives, artificial flavourings and other chemical ingredients. During these varied and often complex processing stages, there is significant potential for mislabeled or contaminated food to enter the Australian food chain.

Recent endorsement by the Environmental Health Association of Australia means that the app can now be used by environmental health officers, whose role is to enforce public health and safety regulations and conduct inspections of premises where food is kept to ensure that it is handled and stored in a safe and hygienic manner.

Lopata believes the food recall app could also provide valuable food safety information to parents living in remote communities who have children with food allergies.

“Around 10% of Australian children have a food allergy,” says Lopata. “In north Queensland, the nearest specialist allergy clinic is around 1500 km away in Brisbane. Our app could raise awareness and access to information in remote communities on food product recalls that relate to allergens, like peanuts and seafood as well as toxins in food.”

Lopata is also looking to extend the app to cover countries such as New Zealand, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia, which currently don’t have this type of service.

According to The Australian Dairy Industry, published in 2011 by PwC Australia, over 50% of Australian dairy products are exported – with 30% going to South-East Asian countries. “We hope we will raise awareness of food safety among countries across Asia,” says Lopata.

– Carl Williams