WHO says on Wednesday that member countries must institute systemic mechanisms to report undesired side effects or adverse drug reactions to make drugs to become safe for use.
It said in a statement posted on its website to commemorate this year’s “MedSafety’’ Week that “the most important aspect of drug safety monitoring is reliable, real-time information.
“Healthcare professionals (physicians, pharmacists, nurses, dentists) are best placed to report suspected adverse reactions as part of patients’ 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 prescribed drug and the reaction,’’ the WHO stated.
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MedSafety Week is an international social media campaign organised every year by the Uppsala Monitoring Centre in Sweden to raise awareness on Adverse Drugs Reporting and national reporting systems.
The 2020 campaign, which runs between Nov. 2 and Nov. 8, calls on patients and healthcare professionals to report all side effects, especially those associated with new or experimental drugs.
According to the statement, most adverse reactions are preventable and 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 could be responsible for untoward side effect.
“An undetected medical, genetic or allergic condition may cause a patient’s reaction; self-medication with prescription medicines or not following instructions for taking the medication; interactions with other drugs (including traditional medicines) and certain foods, could also be responsible.
“Risks may also occur because a medicine’s composition and ingredients do not meet required standards, causing them to be ineffective and even hazardous.
“The medicine could be counterfeit, with no active ingredients or inappropriate ingredients, thereby causing said effects,’’ it stated.
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The UN health agency noted, however, that before medicines or vaccines were made widely available in countries, they were rigorously tested.
“They are tested on patients and on healthy volunteers to discover how well they work for a defined disease and how safe they are.
“But to get a comprehensive picture of a product’s safety, it is important to keep watching how it works once it is widely used in a population.
“This requires careful patient monitoring and further scientific data collection by organised local, national and international agencies,’’ it noted.
On drug safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, it stated that international drug safety monitoring was particularly important during global epidemics.
“As new COVID-19 vaccines and treatments become available, healthcare professionals and patients will need to be actively engaged in monitoring the effects of these novel products and reporting any potential adverse reaction.
“By analysing reported reactions, national medicines authorities can take the necessary measures for safer use of the drugs. Scientists can assess the data and, if needed, international networks can be activated to address the problem,’’ it added.
The WHO promotes global drug safety through its programme for International Drug Monitoring, which supports countries to develop sound pharmaco-vigilance policies. It organises hands-on training and workshops and establishes networks for information sharing.
An important role of the “MedSafety’’ 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.
When signals of drug safety problems emerge through the database or through other sources, the WHO and the Uppsala Monitoring Centre share such information with all WHO member states.
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