EHRs can be useful for drug repurposing

EHRs can be useful for drug repurposing

A new study, conducted by Vanderbilt University Medical Center and published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, revealed that electronic health records can play an important role when it comes to repurposing drugs. In particular, they discovered that the diabetes drug metformin could have potential cancer-treating properties. 

For the study, researchers scanned over 30,000 records of cancer patients that were treated at VUMC between the 1990s and today using EHRs. 

Results showed that diabetic patients receiving metformin experienced a 23 percent decrease in mortality by any cause over non-diabetic cancer patients not taking the drug.  Compared to diabetics taking other hypoglycemic pills, metformin recipients had a 22 percent drop in mortality. This group was also shown to have an impressive 39 percent lower mortality rate than diabetics who were using insulin but not taking metformin. 

Health Data Management reported that the research team repeated the process using 79,000 cancer patient records from the Mayo Clinic. Results were consistent – people with breast, colorectal, lung and prostate cancers were shown to have lower mortality rates when they were prescribed metformin. 

"Our EHR allowed us to delve into details of treatment and response-cancer staging, control of cancer, the various timelines involved and cancer subtypes," Josh Denny, M.D., associate professor of biomedical informatics and medicine at VUMC told Health Data Management.