5 Ways Pharmacovigilance Is Crucial to Expert Health Care
Pharmacovigilance is the field of studying medicines, their effects on humans, any adverse reactions they might cause, and how different drugs interact with each other. All medical providers practice pharmacovigilance in some form in their everyday practice, but some pharmacists and doctors specialize in it.
Proper pharmacovigilance, from the highest-level practitioners in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) down to the personal doctors who deliver one-on-one patient care, is crucial to healthcare in a number of ways.
Pharmacovigilance is often described as simply “drug safety monitoring”. Many different organizations practice pharmacovigilance, including the FDA), the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Society of Pharmacovigilance (ISoP), and the Council for International Organizations of Medical Science (CIOMS).
Here are the top ways that pharmacovigilance helps with healthcare.
Data-Gathering After Market Introduction
The FDA mandates safety testing before a new drug is released into the market. But these are necessarily limited studies that do not encapsulate the experiences of the wider public once the drug is consumed on a mass scale. Pharmacovigilance, especially adverse reaction reporting systems, can help gather data post-market introduction. Occasionally, adverse reactions are caught in this type of analysis that were missed during the initial trial periods of the drugs.
In addition to information “slipping through the cracks”, many pharmaceutical companies have a financial incentive to push their drugs, which they have invested heavily into in terms of research and development, through the regulatory approval process as quickly as possible. This incentive can sometimes result in cutting corners or jerry-rigging the process for a drug that might carry substantial undisclosed risk.
According to an astonishing new survey, one-half of Americans take prescription drugs. Many Americans take more than one prescription. Sometimes, patients take different medications from different doctors.
Communication Between Providers
Even with the efforts to eliminate the dangerous mixing of prescription drugs, doctors sometimes prescribe a medication to a patient who has already received another prescription from a separate provider. Whereas one doctor would be able to see the potential adverse reaction from mixed pharmaceuticals, neither doctor is aware of what the other prescribed and the patient’s health is jeopardized.
Information technology systems allow pharmacovigilance at the local government level to track prescriptions issued by different doctors for prescriptions deemed dangerous when mixed with other drugs.
On a macro scale, international cooperation is important for drawing the best medical conclusions based on the highest amount of data possible. International pharmacovigilance means sharing information across government agencies as well as international organizations like the WHO. Synthesizing as much information about a particular drug and distilling into clear guidelines is the role of international pharmacovigilance, and the collective scientific knowledge lowers healthcare costs globally by mitigating damage caused by adverse reactions to medications.
Stopping Drug-Seeking Behavior
One of the hallmarks of people who become addicted to prescription drugs is called “drug-seeking behavior”. This describes the efforts of addicts to “shop” around at different doctors to get access to more of the substance they have become physically dependent on. Some drug seekers will even visit multiple doctors in a single day.
Pharmacovigilance tracking technology has cut down on successful drug-seeking by red-flagging multiple prescriptions from multiple doctors. In some states, running checks on each prescription to weed out drug-seeking is mandated by law.
The importance of a well-funded and well-organized pharmacovigilance regimen cannot be overstated. Millions of dollars spent on medical care for the treatment of adverse drug reactions and the thousands of deaths caused by adverse drug reactions each year in the United States alone could either be eliminated or substantially reduced. Pharmacovigilance educational and outreach programs, in addition to keeping doctors abreast of the most common adverse drug reactions, could help educate the public as well, equipping patients with basic pharmacovigilance knowledge to protect their own health and contribute to driving down the medical burden of adverse drug reactions.