Dr. Tedros A. Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO

WHO urges countries to institute systemic mechanism for reporting drug side effects

Alexander Davis | ConsumerConnect

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that the member countries must institute systemic mechanisms to report undesired side effects or adverse drug reactions to make drugs to become safe for use.

ConsumerConnect reports the global health body in a statement posted on its Web site Wednesday, November 4, 2020, to commemorate this year’s “MedSafety’’ Week disclosed that “the most important aspect of drug safety monitoring is reliable, real-time information.

WHO said: “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.”

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 from November 2 to 8, calls on patients and healthcare professionals to report all side effects, especially those associated with new or experimental drugs.

Most adverse reactions are preventable and many undesired drug reactions may be due to factors independent of the medicine, said the statement.

The United Nations (UN) health agency stated: “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.”

According to the health agency, however, 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.

As regards drug safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, WHO stated that international drug safety monitoring was particularly important during global epidemics.

It added: “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.’’

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