Every time a pharmacist fills a prescription for Cipro, a database keeps tabs on it. Quintiles in Research Triangle Park created the database to help drug companies track products. Now it could be an early recognition system for a bioterrorist attack.
The system monitors the entire country and can be as specific as a zip code. If doctors report symptoms similar to anthrax or smallpox, the database sends out a red flag immediately.
"That's what this is all about -- giving public health officials an immediate snapshot of what's going on out there," said Gregory Porter, chief executive officer of informatics.
Quintiles wants to offer the database to help the government and health officials identify suspicious disease trends. John Russell will present the proposal to the government next week.
"The technology is proven and that data is present, so we're talking a matter of weeks it would take to adapt it to the government's needs," he said.
The database is already helping in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 events. After the attack, Quintiles was able to immediately track a 30-percent jump in sales of anti-anxiety drugs and a 35-percent spike in sales of Cipro even before the first anthrax case was detected.
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