Intended for healthcare professionals


Adverse drug reactions: finding the needle in the haystack

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: (Published 30 August 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:500

Pharmacovigilance is improving: now we need to ensure that patients benefit

  1. I Ralph Edwards, Directora
  1. a Uppsala Monitoring Centre, Stora Torget 3, S-75320 Uppsala, Sweden

    Patients need to be sure that the medicines they take are as safe and effective as possible. Concerns over a product's safe use must be discovered, evaluated, and acted on, and the results made available for patient care as expeditiously as possible. In this process spontaneous reports of adverse reactions play an important part, but the problem they present is that of finding needles—true adverse reactions—in large haystacks of suspicions.

    There is no substitute for spontaneous adverse drug reaction reports for providing early signals of problems with drugs. The article in this week's issue by Lee et al shows that reporting by pharmacists can make a difference to the number of meaningful reports from hospitals (p 519).1 Britain thus joins 36 other countries in the World Health Organisation's programme on international drug monitoring that accept reports from pharmacists. Britain …

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