Purpose and Achievements of the Yellow Card Scheme

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Chapter: Pharmacovigilance: Spontaneous Reporting - UK

It is generally accepted (e.g. Amery, 1999) that it is not possible to detect all the adverse effects of a medicine during the pre-marketing clinical trials, because of a number of factors.


PURPOSE AND ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE YELLOW CARD SCHEME

It is generally accepted (e.g. Amery, 1999) that it is not possible to detect all the adverse effects of a medicine during the pre-marketing clinical trials, because of a number of factors. First, trials are generally small (on average 1500 patients for a new drug substance); although they will detect common side effects, partic-ularly those that are predictable from the pharmacol-ogy of the drug, they are too small to detect side effects that occur rarely (incidence of 1 in 10 000 or less). Additionally, medicines are used in clinical trials in a very controlled manner, that is they are given for a limited duration, to carefully selected patients who are closely monitored. This is in complete contrast to the manner in which the medicine may be used once marketed, when it may be used in patient populations for which it was not intended, may be given for long periods of time, and in combination with other medicines.

It is therefore vital to monitor the safety of medicines as used in routine clinical practice through-out their marketed life, in order to detect those side effects that are not identified through clinical trials.

The best established way to do this is to collect reports of suspected adverse drug reactions (ADRs) via a reporting Scheme such as the Yellow Card Scheme.

All spontaneous reporting Schemes, including the Yellow Card Scheme, have a number of limita-tions, perhaps the most significant of which is under-reporting (e.g. Griffin and Weber, 1992; see the section on ‘Weaknesses of Yellow Cards’ below). Despite this, such Schemes have a proven track record as an ‘early warning’ system for the identifi-cation of new drug safety hazards. Examples of drug safety hazards identified through spontaneous report-ing have been described previously (e.g. Rawlins, 1988b; Griffin and Weber, 1992). Examples of ADRs identified via spontaneous reporting including Yellow Cards are shown in Table 15.1.



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