Help make medicines safer by reporting suspected side effects

From today, the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) is taking part in the third annual social media campaign to promote the importance of reporting suspected side effects from medicines.

Taking place from 19-23 November, the campaign forms part of an awareness week involving 32 medicines regulators in the EU, Latin America, Australasia and the Middle East. Regulators will jointly focus on raising reporting numbers for suspected side effects with an additional emphasis this year on the safe use of medicines in infants and children, and during pregnancy, including when breastfeeding.

The United Nations’ Universal Children’s Day falls within the awareness week and both campaigns seek to promote international togetherness and improve children's welfare.

The campaign is supported by Uppsala Monitoring Centre, the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for International Drug Monitoring, who have developed the campaign animations to encourage reporting.

A number of organisations, including the European Medicines Agency, the European Commission and patient organisations such as EURORDIS, a non-governmental patient-driven alliance of patient organisations representing rare disease patient organisations in 70 countries, have also pledged their support.

While many people do not experience any problems when using medicines, side effects can happen, even with over-the-counter products. It is important the risks associated with all medicines are understood and communicated to healthcare professionals and their patients, including parents and carers, people planning for or expecting a baby.

Potential side effects may range from a headache or stomach ache, to flu-like symptoms or just ‘feeling a bit off’, and reporting these can help medicines regulators monitor the safe use medicines on the market. In addition, reporting can help regulators to identify safety signals and, if necessary, to take action as appropriate to prevent future harm.

Regulators such as the HPRA rely on the reporting of suspected side effects to make sure medicines on the market are acceptably safe. It is generally accepted however that there is under-reporting of suspected side effects – this is why the campaign is important to both raise awareness and help strengthen the system.

According to Dr Almath Spooner, Pharmacovigilance and Risk Management Lead at the HPRA:

“The most important part of our work is making sure the medicines you and your family take are effective and acceptably safe. Our campaign will help raise awareness with parents and carers, including expectant mothers and those planning to have a baby. It’s important for them and healthcare professionals to report potential side effects and have confidence their reports are making a difference.

“Children and infants can react differently to medicines than adults. It’s important for parents and carers to read the medicine’s patient information leaflet and ensure they are giving it in the right dose.

“Medicines you take while pregnant or breastfeeding can sometimes affect your baby. If you need to take medicine during pregnancy or breastfeeding, or even before when you plan to have a baby, it’s essential you discuss your treatment, including any potential side effects, with your doctor or healthcare professional.

“Everyone can help make medicines safer by reporting any suspected side effects easily and quickly through our online report form.”