Introduction: The participation of the pharmacist in national spontaneous reporting systems for adverse drug reactions (ADRs) has not always been a matter of course. Even today, there are a number of countries, in particular the Scandinavian countries, where pharmacists are not authorised to report ADRs. In those countries in which they are allowed to report, they do not always use this opportunity.
Methods: We have conducted a review of the literature to investigate the involvement of pharmacists in ADR reporting. In addition, we evaluated the pharmacists' actual contributions in 2001 by means of an international questionnaire-based survey among the countries participating in the WHO Drug Monitoring Programme in September 2002. Apart from the numbers of pharmacists' reports, respondents were asked to indicate their assessment of both the quality and the significance of the contribution. Of the 68 participating countries, 41 responded by returning the questionnaire.
Results and conclusions: The appreciation of pharmacists' ADR reports is high in those countries that have more experience with greater numbers of pharmacists' reports. The countries that received fewer reports from pharmacists gave lower scores to their contribution. If the specific contribution pharmacists can make to the quantity and quality of ADR reports were to be exploited to a greater extent, this could lead to a substantial improvement of the international adverse drug reactions reporting system.