The past, present and perhaps future of pharmacovigilance: homage to Folke Sjoqvist

Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 2013 May;69 Suppl 1:33-41. doi: 10.1007/s00228-013-1486-8. Epub 2013 May 3.


Over the years since 1961 and the identification of thalidomide as the common link in thousands of birth defects, daily pharmacovigilance activities and signal generation have evolved from the analysis of individual case reports and imputology, to case series and underreporting, to spontaneous report databases and disproportionality analyses, to data mining in population databases. Regulatory requirements have also changed from purely passive monitoring and reacting to alerts to a proactive approach that includes risk management plans and risk minimization, and from reporting only by healthcare professionals to patient reporting and exploration of social media. The emphasis only on risk assessment is changing towards assessment of the risk/benefit ratio and the exploration of real-life efficacy studies to complement the measure of real-life risk. The interactions between industry and regulators have been amplified and strengthened. However, most adverse reactions, including severe ones, are related to well-known and often pharmacological effects of the older drugs, possibly with genetic predispositions. Prevention is the next frontier for pharmacovigilance, beyond simply generating alerts, and it involves not only the removal of drugs from the market, but also promotion of proper drug prescribing by better trained physicians and the proper use of drugs by better informed patients.

MeSH terms

  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Pharmacovigilance*