Artificial Intelligence has an exciting future in health care, from streamlining insurance claims to assisting radiologists, dermatologists, cardiologists, and other specialists by enhancing data-based pattern recognition, from providing rapid information and improving efficiency in hospitals to playing a direct role in the doctor’s office in informing both doctors and patients.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a great deal of respect for clinical judgment, innovative solutions, and the need to maintain patient confidentiality. No matter how soothing a computer’s voice may be, it cannot supplant my personal empathy. In the doctor’s office, AI must therefore function as a co-pilot.
One area in which AI will be a significant game-changer that has not received nearly enough attention is helping to combat shortages of essential medications while also assisting in the development of new medicines and the repurposing of old ones.
Antibiotics such as amoxicillin, despite being frequently overprescribed by physicians, remain crucial despite the increasing drug shortages. Important mental health medications, such as Adderall, Vyvanse, and Concerta for ADHD, continue to be in short supply, which is particularly problematic for our adolescents, many of whom are returning to in-person school from restrictive pandemic policies with rising levels of anxiety, social problems, and learning delays.
WHAT IS ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI)?
This is not to say that ADHD medications are not also overprescribed, but consider that, according to the CDC, more than 10% of children and adolescents aged 6 and older have ADHD, and more than 60% require medication. Many factors contribute to shortages, including narrow profit margins as a disincentive, an insufficient supply of active pharmaceutical ingredients from China and India, and increased demand.
Imagine, however, if AI was employed as a tool to determine availability in terms of ingredients, final product, as well as which pharmacies have it and which do not. The return of drug manufacturing to the United States could be encouraged by the widespread use of AI if it reduces drug delivery costs and improves drug delivery efficacy.
Even more intriguing is the possible application of AI to drug development. Drug discovery, and the tried-and-true process of high throughput screening, where different chemicals are used to bombard different protein targets on diseased cells until one works, could be and will be significantly enhanced by machine learning, where AI can predict toxicity or even come up with a slightly modified version of a molecule that is more effective. The efficiency increase and cost savings will be immense. It will not replace clinical trials, but it can supplement them.
Revolutionizing Antibiotic Development: How AI Promises Affordability and Simplicity
Since the late 1980s, there has not been a new class of antibiotics developed because it is difficult for drug manufacturers to justify the billion dollar price tag of developing a new antibiotic when humans only use it intermittently, when unwell. AI will alter all of this and make the development of antibiotics much simpler and affordable.
As long as antibiotics continue to be overused in animal feed and by clinicians mistreating upper respiratory infections, resistant bacteria will continue to gain a survival advantage and proliferate. By monitoring emergent patterns of resistance and incorporating them into a streamlined drug development process, AI can assist in the fight against infectious diseases.
AI as a solution for drug shortages, development, and repurposing extends well beyond antibiotics and ADHD medications to include treatments for cancer, obesity, and cardiac disease, and eventually all pharmaceuticals. Side effects, drug interactions, and drug indications could all be monitored by AI, accumulating a massive database for use by physicians like myself.
The transition from Physicians’ Desk Reference to online sourcing, which was eventually integrated into my Electronic Health Records program, was a significant advancement in health care. AI will carry this procedure exponentially further than EHR.
It won’t be long before the next cancer cure or Alzheimer’s treatment is discovered by a sophisticated machine experimenting with various chemical formulations. After that, physicians and scientists will continue to lead. We must accept this new reality rather than resist it. I am already fully welcoming it.
Source: Fox News