The Department of Health has launched an online initiative to allow doctors, patients and researchers to look at data on the safety of different medicines and report adverse reactions to drugs electronically.
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The move is part of a series of measures to further improve the drug side effect reporting system - the Yellow Card Scheme - which is used by the government’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) safety watchdog.
The MHRA will publish anonymous data on suspected adverse drug reactions on its website. Researchers will also be able to access more detailed data and measures will be put in place to prevent potential abuse of the information.
All information will be reviewed by an independent committee to make sure it is ethically and scientifically sound and protects patient confidentiality, said the Department of Health.
The first pilots of patients directly reporting unexpected effects of drugs to the regulator were also launched. Forms to report unexpected drug reactions will be available in 4,000 GP surgeries across the UK, and patients will also be able to make reports online.
Health minister Lord Warner said, "The Yellow Card System is recognised as one of the best spontaneous reporting schemes for adverse drug reactions in the world. These measures will make it better.
“Patients will be able to see the information used to make decisions about medicine safety and researchers can use this important resource to aid research.
"And enabling patients to directly report unexpected drug reactions allows them to play their part in making medicines safer and to help better monitor drug safety and protect public health.”