PittPharmacy faculty member Inmaculada Hernandez, PharmD, PhD received an award through the Alzheimer’s Association for her research titled Claims Data Mining to Predict Side Effects of Anti-Dementia Drugs. The study will investigate what increases the risk of suffering side effects from anti-dementia drugs, and examine which anti-dementia drug is safer.

There are four drugs approved to delay the memory problems associated with Alzheimer’s disease, all of which place patients at a high risk of cardiovascular side effects, such as heart attack or irregular heartbeat. Even though these side effects are very severe, it remains unknown which of the four drugs is safer, and whether combinations of two drugs are safe. It is also unknown what makes patients more likely to experience these side effects.

In this study, Hernandez proposes to analyze data from Medicare with two objectives: 1) to study what makes patients with Alzheimer’s disease more likely to suffer a side effect when they take anti-dementia drugs; and 2) to examine which drug is safer, and whether using two anti-dementia drugs at the same time increases the odds of having a side effect.

Findings will help physicians to identify those patients with higher odds of suffering side effects. In addition, results will show which drug or combination of drugs is safer. This information will guide physicians to choose the safest anti-dementia therapy for patients with Alzheimer’s disease. In the long term, the results from this project will reduce the number of Alzheimer’s disease patients who suffer cardiovascular side effects from their anti-dementia medications, such as heart attacks and irregular heartbeat.

Hernandez is an assistant professor in the pharmacy and therapeutics department at the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy.

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