U of S researchers part of Canada-wide study on adverse drug effects

A team of University of Saskatchewan researchers is part of a national network that is mining data on more than 27 million Canadians to study rare and serious side effects of drugs and the performance of drugs for rare diseases.

Dr. Gary Teare leads the Saskatchewan arm of the Canadian Network for Observational Drug Effect Studies (CNODES), a five-year, $17.5-million initiative funded through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The Saskatchewan effort will receive $1.6 million of the total.

"The idea is for each participating province to produce the same kind of results so that they can be combined in a Canada-wide study that will be unique in the world for this kind of research," Teare said.

Teare is an adjunct professor in the School of Public Health and department of community health and epidemiology with the U of S College of Medicine and director of quality measurement and analysis with Saskatchewan's Health Quality Council (HQC). The HQC is an independent agency focused on the improvement of Saskatchewan health services.

By using such a large and comprehensive data set, researchers will be able to identify and study rare adverse effects and the side effects associated with unusual diseases.

"This national research initiative promises to yield knowledge that will benefit Canadians right across the country," said U of S Vice-President Research Karen Chad. "We're proud to be part of a research collaboration with such broad potential for impact on people's lives."

While Canadian pharmaceuticals are thoroughly tested before their release to the public, too little is known about their effects once they've been officially released. Every year, 150,000 Canadians are hospitalized due to side effects from approved prescription drugs. Nearly 10,000 Canadians die from negative drug reactions.

"We are pleased to participate in this major pan-Canadian research initiative," Teare said. "It will equip decision-makers and health providers with critical information they need to develop policy and deliver safer care for patients."

CNODES will investigate unintended risks and benefits of pharmaceutical drugs by using existing clinical databases. Researchers will use standardized research practices in their province, which will be pooled with data from other centres across the country. The method will allow rapid and extremely detailed results applicable to the entire Canadian population, something previously not achievable by individual provinces.

Initially, CNODES will focus on suspected side effects of two commonly used medications. First up will be a search for evidence of a link between high dose statins, which are used to lower cholesterol, and acute kidney injury. Second will be an attempt to see if people on a type of gastric acid reduction drug called proton pump inhibitors are more susceptible to pneumonia outside of a hospital environment.

The national CNODES research effort is led by McGill University's Samy Suissa, with each provincial arm led by experts in public health and pharmacy.

In Saskatchewan, Teare leads a team of researchers from the U of S and the HQC. Rounding out the team are David Blackburn, an expert in patient adherence to medications from the U of S College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, and Lisa Lix, an expert in analysis of large data bases and health services research methodology from the U of S School of Public Health.

Besides furthering Saskatchewan's research capacity, involvement in CNODES will offer training opportunities for as many as four medical graduate students and one or two post-doctoral trainees in Saskatchewan through the HQC and the U of S College of Pharmacy and Nutrition and School of Public Health.

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