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Harvard Medical School Faculty Advances Drug Safety Research With IBM Business Analytics

ARMONK, N.Y., May 3, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that faculty from Harvard Medical School and Brigham & Women's Hospital will use IBM business analytics technology at the core of new research that examines the effectiveness of prescription drugs and spots potential safety issues.


Harvard Medical research teams are conducting advanced pharmacoepidemiology studies that look at the effects of drugs in large numbers of people based on insurance claims data. Using an IBM Netezza data warehouse appliance, the research teams will expand its studies to analyze data from millions of de-identified patient records with the aim to develop new data-intensive drug safety research methods.

Pharmacoepidemiology research is designed to answer important questions such as which anti-inflammatory drugs carry a risk of heart attack, what osteoporosis medications are most often used with good results, or how cost-effective are some drugs in treating mental health disorders.

"We wanted a computing platform with massive analytics power, but was extremely simple to administer," said Dr. Sebastian Schneeweiss, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Vice Chief of the Brigham & Women's Hospital Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics. "As global healthcare evolves toward a learning healthcare system with a need for ongoing comparative effectiveness and safety research integrated in routine care, it is imperative that research methods evolve in parallel. IBM Netezza will accelerate our ability to devise, test and publish new computationally intensive algorithms applied to ever larger longitudinal healthcare databases that we hope will become the gold standard for researchers globally."

Dr. Schneeweiss is the principal investigator of the AHRQ-funded DEcIDE Methods Center and Co-Chair of the Methods Core of the FDA-funded Mini Sentinel project. The study of patterns of health and illness associated with prescription drugs over long periods of time help determine which treatments are proven to have the best outcomes, and which are most viable for specific populations of patients. IBM Netezza business analytics technology will help Dr. Schneeweiss' research team establish newer and more sophisticated analytic algorithms that can be automated to produce more accurate results.

"Our research lab is focused on the best ways to automate the continuous evaluation of the safety of medications, and we require fast systems to assemble and analyze data," said Dr. Jeremy Rassen, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. "IBM Netezza puts us ahead of the curve, including capabilities for parallelized in-database analytics. We have already seen orders of magnitude performance improvement, without the use of any database administrator time, and system maintenance is done by our researchers and analysts."

Another area of research for Harvard Medical will be health economics and outcomes research (HEOR). Once the effectiveness of medications is established, pharmaceutical companies and health insurers have teams of HEOR analysts to demonstrate the value of new medical products for pricing and coverage decisions to provide higher quality of care. Intelligently mining claims data with a powerful analytics platform like IBM Netezza is often the best and fastest way to answer questions about the most effective therapies.

"The ability to glean insight and act on the analysis of massive amounts of claims data will help Harvard Medical School extend its reputation as one of the largest and most respected medical research organizations in the world," said Arvind Krishna, general manager, IBM Information Management.

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