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Too many patients do not report drug side-effects

London parents are least likely to tell GPs of side effects

Adrian O'Dowd

Monday, 03 March 2014

Almost a third of parents in London will not tell their GP about side-effects that their children are experiencing from medication, according to a survey carried out for the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

The survey also found that 61% of parents in the English capital would not approach a pharmacist about side effects.

The MHRA commissioned research as part of a campaign to increase reporting from parents and carers of suspected side-effects associated with medicines taken by children as part of its Yellow Card Scheme.

The scheme collects reports of side effects to medicines and vaccines and is used to monitor the safety of medicines, vaccines and complementary medicines in the UK acting as an early warning system for identifying previously unrecognised adverse drug reactions.

Previous research has suggested that only 10-15% of serious side effects and between 2-4% of non-serious side effects are reported in the entire population.

The new study found that Londoners were the least likely to inform healthcare professionals with 69% of parents noting that they would report a side-effect to a doctor and 39% saying they would ask their pharmacist, compared to a high of 88% and 59% by parents in Wales.

Although London parents were the least likely to report to healthcare professionals, they were most likely to report any side-effects to the Yellow Card Scheme, with 14% of London parents reporting to the scheme compared to a national average of 9%. 

June Raine, director of the MHRA’s vigilance and risk management of medicines division, said: “It is vital that parents and carers as well as healthcare professionals use the Yellow Card Scheme to report any suspected side-effects.

“Identifying side-effects in children can be more difficult and it may only be a parent or carer who is able to identify symptoms in a child that they cannot explain themselves.

“Parents and carers have an important contribution to make identifying potential safety problems and so helping the MHRA protect public health.”

Dr Hilary Cass, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “Not all medication is perfectly suited to every child, even if they have the same medical condition or complaint. So for children to get quality and effective medication that’s right for them, it’s important that healthcare professionals work with families to report all side effects, no matter how big or small.”

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