WHO: Ensuring medicines work safely for everyone

4 November, 2020

Below are extracts from a WHO news item, and a comment from me.

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WHO: Ensuring medicines work safely for everyone

2 November 2020 Departmental news Reading time: 2 min (607 words)

For medicines to work safely, it’s vital to have strong systems in place to report any undesired side effects or “adverse drug reactions“.

The most important aspect of drug safety monitoring is reliable, real-time information. Health-care professionals (physicians, pharmacists, nurses, dentists) are best placed to report suspected adverse reactions as part of patient care. Patients also have a critical role in getting the right information to authorities and should refer to their medical practitioner as soon as they detect unwanted symptoms or reactions. Both health professionals and patients should report these even if they are doubtful about the precise relationship between the given drug and the reaction.

Most adverse reactions are preventable

Many undesired drug reactions may be due to factors independent of the medicine. For example:

incorrect diagnosis of the patient’s medical condition;

prescription of an inappropriate drug or incorrect dosage of the appropriate drug;

an undetected medical, genetic or allergic condition that may cause a patient reaction;

self-medication with prescription medicines;

not following instructions for taking the medication;

interactions with other drugs (including traditional medicines) and certain foods...

WHO’s role in making medicines safer

WHO promotes global drug safety through its Programme for International Drug Monitoring, which supports countries to develop sound pharmacovigilance policies, organizes hands-on training and workshops, and establishes networks for information sharing.

An important role of the programme is to strengthen national reporting systems and their contribution to VigiBase, the global WHO database for adverse drug reactions, managed by Uppsala Monitoring Centre in Sweden, and to identify possible links between the use of a drug and adverse reactions. When signals of drug safety problems emerge through the database or other sources, WHO and Uppsala Monitoring Centre share new information on serious adverse reactions with all WHO Member States.

A recent key WHO development is the introduction of a mobile application called “Med Safety”, jointly launched in nine countries* with Uppsala Monitoring Centre and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. The app enables health-care professionals and patients to report suspected adverse reactions directly to the national authorities’ data base. WHO is preparing to roll out the app in more countries once a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.

*Armenia, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Uganda, Zambia.

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[*Note from HIFA moderator (Neil PW): Reporting of adverse drug reactions is important, but even more important is to ensure that prescribers and users of medicines have access to reliable information on which to correctly select and apply medicines. ‘Globally, most prescribers receive most of their prescribing information from the pharmaceutical industry and in many countries this is the only information they receive.’ World Medicines Report, WHO, 2011. There is sadly no evidence that prescribers are better informed than they were in 2011. This neglected issue is responsible for countless deaths and immeasurable suffering worldwide.]

Best wishes, Neil

Joint Coordinator, HIFA Project on Information for Prescribers and Users of Medicines http://www.hifa.org/projects/prescribers-and-users-medicines

Let's build a future where people are no longer dying for lack of healthcare information - Join HIFA: www.hifa.org

HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - www.hifa.org ), a global community with more than 19,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages in collaboration with WHO. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: facebook.com/HIFAdotORG neil@hifa.org