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Pharmacists vital in global medicines safety effort

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Pharmacists vital in global medicines safety effort

The annual Medicines Safety Week (7-13 November) forms part of international efforts to raise awareness about the importance of reporting suspected adverse reactions to national healthcare product regulatory authorities, such as the UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

This year, regulators from 82 countries across the globe are taking part to spread the word, says Phil Tregunno, the MRHA's deputy director of patient safety monitoring. "As pharmacists, you are vital in this effort.  With the Ask Your Pharmacist campaign now firmly embedded in the public consciousness, the public are increasingly aware that they can approach you for guidance on their health and medicines. So if they experience an adverse reaction to a medicine or have an incident with a device, we know that you are well placed to signpost them to our app, website or phone number as you discuss their symptoms and help to determine whether their health product is the cause."

Mr Tregonning says reports help the agency to monitor the safety of healthcare products once they are on the market and has already helped to identify numerous safety issues, many of which were not previously linked to a particular healthcare product until Yellow Card reports were received. These include the pharmacist who helped improve the safety information for inhalers to reduce the risk of patients choking, to the pharmacy assistant that flagged an unknown issue with Bonjela.

"Pharmacy staff in every setting have a key role to play in promoting patient safety about side effects," says Mr Tregonning. "It is also vitally important to continue to remind people of the importance of reading the Patient Information Leaflet  and advise them on what to do if they experience problems with a healthcare product, by talking to a healthcare professional and reporting the issue to us.

"When it comes to Yellow Card reports, we need as much information as possible. Product brand names, batch numbers for vaccines and biologicals, medical history, concomitant medications, treatment dates, onset timing and duration are all crucial to help us determine what factors are at play.

"It is not just reactions involving prescribed medicines that need to be reported – you can also report suspected defective or fake medicines, adverse reactions to herbal or homeopathic medicines, any problems with medical devices, including apps, software and artificial intelligence) and even e-cigarettes and their refill liquids. If you have even a suspicion, then reporting is key."

For medicines with a black triangle symbol, all suspected adverse drug reactions should be reported, but the MHRA says it encourages everyone to be vigilant for suspected adverse reactions to any health product, especially new, serious or rare reactions or those that may have a delayed onset, and report them as soon as possible.  

For more information and resources such as accredited e-learning modules as well as materials like printable posters and public information cards are available on the Yellow Card website. You can also sign up to receive Drug Safety Updates, or download the app to get them directly to your smartphone h the latest in medicines and devices safety information.

"We need your help. Without accurate, timely data, monitoring is always going to be less effective.  Every time you make a report or support a member of the public to make one, you know you are directly helping to improve the safety of these products for everyone. For more information on the campaign, speak to your local nedication safety officer, patient safety team or Yellow Card Centre who can help provide you with resources to raise awareness on the importance of reporting or visit the campaign webpage.

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