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New learning guide will help doctors recognise and report drug side effects

New learning guide will help doctors recognise and report drug side effects


3 April 2013




New learning guide will help doctors recognise and report drug side effects


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Side effects will be discovered more quickly, leading to safer prescribing.

BMJ Learning has teamed up with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to launch a new, interactive and multimedia learning module on pharmacovigilance.

The module will support healthcare professionals know how and when to report side effects of medications – an essential element of patient safety.

Drug side effects are a major public health concern worldwide and are amongst the leading cause of death in many countries. Although no medicine is ever completely free of risk, the World Health Organization estimates that at least 60% of adverse drug reactions are preventable.

Effective reporting of drug reactions is an important way for healthcare professionals to contribute to the safer use of medicines. In the UK, this is done by completing a Yellow Card and submitting it to the MHRA. This is a quick and easy process, and can be done online or by post.

Although this Yellow Card scheme provides valuable information, its effectiveness is limited by under-reporting. Busy healthcare workers may mistakenly assume that reporting is a time consuming and complicated process, or that the information they have is not useful.

This module will help to change that view. After completing the module, healthcare professionals will understand the importance of continuous monitoring for adverse drug effects, know which type of situation should trigger a report through the Yellow Card scheme, and be able to fill out a Yellow Card correctly.

They should also know where to find up-to-date information on adverse effects of drugs, and be able to use that information to make safe prescribing choices.

One doctor who completed the module said: "Interesting and very relevant. Will encourage me to adverse report more often.” Another commented: “Very simple to follow. Good videos. Useful - will pay more attention to yellow cards from now on."

Dr June Raine, Director of Vigilance and Risk Management of Medicines at the MHRA said: "The education module that has been developed has been written for healthcare professionals who routinely make decisions about prescribing, supplying or administering medicines. We hope it provides a useful tool in professional development and increasing understanding of the role of healthcare professionals in contributing to the knowledge and understanding of the risks and side-effects of medicines. This in turn should help in making treatment choices with patients."

Dr Kieran Walsh, Clinical Director of BMJ Learning, said: "Adverse side effects to new or old drugs happen all the time, but they are not reported as often as they should be to the correct authorities. This module explains to all healthcare professionals how to do this. It is an important guide to help everyone improve their performance in this essential component of patient safety."

The module is available free to all UK healthcare professionals through an MHRA grant.

Notes to Editor

1. BMJ Learning is the leading online provider of continuous professional development for health professionals. The website contains over 1000 interactive learning courses, across 70 specialty areas that are accredited for CME/CPD points in several countries.

2. The MHRA is the government agency which is responsible for ensuring that medicines and medical devices work, and are acceptably safe.

3. BMJ Learning website (external link)

4. Contact: Emma Dickinson, BMJ Group Press Office. Tel: +44 (0)207 383 6529. Email:

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