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Industry could gain access to yellow card data

Published on 31/10/03 at 10:50am

The pharmaceutical industry could be granted access to data from the UK's Yellow Card adverse effect warning system to assist the development of safer and more targeted drugs.

The Government has appointed Dr Jeremy Metters, the former Deputy Chief Medical Officer to conduct an independent review of the system, which went online in October.

Nurses have now joined doctors in reporting adverse drug reactions through the scheme, while patients themselves can report side-effects through NHS Direct.

The pharmaceutical industry is legally obliged to pass on any reports it receives, but are currently barred from seeing data reported from other sources.

Dr Metters said he was honoured to be heading up the review, and said making the data more widely available threw up a number of concerns as well as possibilities.

"There are issues around the confidence of health professionals in the confidentiality of the scheme, and how data could be used to unlock the potential for so called 'designer medicines'. Ethical and financial questions are also raised as to the use of an important public health tool for commercial gain".

Lord Warner, the Department of Health's newly appointed minister in charge of pharmaceutical industry affairs said the review would aim to maintain the capacity of the scheme to deliver public health benefits and prevent abuse of the data in the future.

The news was welcomed by the ABPI, which said the industry was eager to participate in the review.

ABPI Director of Medicine Dr Richard Tiner said: "Some of the information supplied under the system is of great value to the pharmaceutical industry and others who work on developing new medicines. At the same time, we understand that patient confidentiality is paramount, and this review will be wanting to look at how this can be maintained".

The review is scheduled to report to the MHRA by the end of 2003, after which a public consultation will follow.

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