How to avoid adverse drug reactions

Virtually no drug on the market is free from causing any side effects in the patient, however, the risk is significantly less than the positive effect obtained. Although in most cases the drugs do not produce any side effects, when they do, the majority of the cases are mild, but they affect 7% of the patients admitted to a hospital and of these, around 10% have a fatal effect on the patient.

On the occasion of Adverse Drug Event Week, #MedSafetyWeek, an awareness campaign on adverse drug reactions, launched by the Uppsala Monitoring Centre (UMC) - WHO's collaborative center for international drug monitoring - in collaboration with 57 other drug regulatory authorities around the world, the World Health Organization has recognized that "most" adverse drug reactions are preventable, but has called on countries to have "robust" systems for reporting any unwanted side effects.

One of the main reasons why these adverse reactions occur is due to polymedication, since it increases the risk of side effects due to possible interactions between them. This situation is quite common in older people. In fact, different studies point out that one third of the world population over 75 consumes at least six drugs a day, and more than one million people consume eight or more.

As with polymedication, the WHO has explained that many secondary reactions are not related to the components of the drug but may be due to factors outside the drug, such as an inappropriate prescription, an incorrect dose, self-medication, not following the guidelines, interactions with other substances and certain foods... While it is true, the risks may also be due to some of the compounds used in the formulation not meeting the required standards or the drug being false, making the drug ineffective or, worse, harmful to health.

For all these reasons, the WHO reminds that to minimize the impact of adverse drug reactions (ADRs) it is necessary to involve both patients and health personnel and to carry out more and better scientific data collection by local, national and international agencies.

This work will be especially important when a vaccine against the SARS-Cov2 virus is available, so that all appropriate control mechanisms can be activated to address the problem with the greatest possible impact. Given the risk that the release of the future Covid-19 vaccine will pose, the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has announced that it will use artificial intelligence to examine carefully the "high volume" of adverse reaction reports that may be triggered.

In statements to the Financial Times reported by the newspaper Milenio, the British regulator acknowledges that, based on previous vaccination campaigns, "there will be between 50,000 and 100,000 reports of suspected side effects per 100 million doses over a period of 6 to 12 months.

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