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Penn State develops new app that shows how cannabinoids could interact with other medications

Users enter the cannabinoid product a patient is taking as well as their other medications. Then, the app models how all of these medications could interact.

HERSHEY, Pa. — Editor's note: The above video is from March 4.

Penn State researchers have developed a new app that could help pharmacists and other health care providers improve patient safety by modeling how medical and recreational marijuana may interact with other medications, according to a press release. 

The app, CANNabinoid Drug Interaction Review (CANN-DIR™), is a free web-based resource that evaluates cannabinoid products in a single database against common over-the-counter and prescription medications, also according to a press release.

The app works like this: users select the specific cannabinoid product a patient is taking and then choose other medications they are using. Then, the app provides information on how all of these medications could interact. This could include side effects, potential affects to the metabolism, or what have you. 

The goal of this app, according to researchers, is to improve patient safety, as medical marijuana and CBD have become more accessible to consumers, making interaction with "more traditional" medications more likely. 

Kent Vrana, Elliot S. Vesell Professor and Chair of the Department of Pharmacology and project leader said that "it’s important for health care professionals and patients to understand that cannabinoid products, whether prescribed or used recreationally, may influence the activity of other medications." 

“Some drugs can affect the way others are broken down by the body, which can be problematic in the case of medications with a narrow therapeutic index,” Vrana said. “People may not realize that THC and CBD products have the ability to change the way other drugs are metabolized, and it’s an important conversation for patients and health care providers to have with each other. 

The information in the app's database was researched by Vrana and Paul Kocis, a clinical pharmacist at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

Funding came from the Center for Medical Innovation at the College of Medicine. This funding enabled Vrana and Kocis to connect with Penn State Harrisburg computer science students Samuel Wadrose, Aqib Ahmed, and Rohan Gajjar, who worked on the app as part of their capstone project in the spring of 2021. 

Another group of computer science students are working on a second version of the app currently; researchers are hoping that this version will be even more user-friendly, also according to the press release. 

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