Using visual analytics for presenting comparative information on new drugs

J Biomed Inform. 2017 Jul;71:58-69. doi: 10.1016/j.jbi.2017.04.019. Epub 2017 May 23.


Objective: When a new drug is marketed, physicians must decide whether they will consider it for their future practice. However, information about new drugs can be biased or hard to find. In this work, our objective was to study whether visual analytics could be used for comparing drug properties such as contraindications and adverse effects, and whether this visual comparison can help physicians to forge their own well-founded opinions about a new drug.

Materials and methods: First, an ontology for comparative drug information was designed, based on the expectations expressed during focus groups comprised of physicians. Second, a prototype of a visual drug comparator website was developed. It implements several visualization methods: rainbow boxes (a new technique for overlapping set visualization), dynamic tables, bar charts and icons. Third, the website was evaluated by 22 GPs for four new drugs. We recorded the general satisfaction, the physician's decision whether to consider the new drug for future prescription, both before and after consulting the website, and their arguments to justify their choice.

Results: The prototype website permits the visual comparison of up to 10 drugs, including efficacy, contraindications, interactions, adverse effects, prices, dosage regimens,…All physicians found that the website allowed them to forge a well-founded opinion on the four new drugs. The physicians changed their decision about using a new drug in their future practice in 29 cases (out of 88) after consulting the website.

Discussion and conclusion: Visual analytics is a promising approach for presenting drug information and for comparing drugs. The visual comparison of drug properties allows physicians to forge their opinions on drugs. Since drug properties are available in reference texts, reviewed by public health agencies, it could contribute to the independent of drug information.

Keywords: Drug information; Information visualization; New drugs; Visual analytics.

MeSH terms

  • Computer Graphics
  • Contraindications, Drug*
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions*
  • Humans
  • Physicians*
  • Statistics as Topic*