How many people have heard of an NHS ‘yellow card’ on which suspected side-effects should be reported?

23 Oct

Dr Mark Porter is a part-time partner in a busy rural NHS GP practice in the Cotswolds. He spends the rest of his time writing about medical matters in his weekly column and delivering his Radio 4 series Inside Health. He was awarded an MBE for services to medicine in 2005

In the Times recently, he asked, ‘How safe are your medicines?’ and informs all that In the UK a form anyone can use to report suspected side-effects is called ‘the yellow card’.

Last year there was a fall in the number of cards received and Dr Porter asked if drugs really are causing fewer problems or if ‘we have taken our eye off the ball’.

In 2018 the monitoring authority – the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – received 42,500 yellow cards, down from 44,000 the previous year.

Most patients have never heard of yellow cards, or assume that their doctor will report problems for them but healthcare professionals are stretched and may not link the side-effect to a drug.

New drugs are more risky because they may have been tested on only a few thousand people before gaining a licence, and even then often only for short periods.

It was the MHRA, with the help of yellow cards, that warned people taking the cholesterol-lowering drug simvastatin on which this site reported in 2012. It also warned against taking the anticoagulant warfarin with grapefruit juice because it interfered with the way the drugs were metabolised, increasing the risk of side-effects such as muscle aches and bleeding.

Dr Porter emphasises the importance of reporting side-effects experienced whilst taking a new drug (identified by a black triangle on the patient leaflet), even if you think it may be a coincidence because it’s often a pattern of such “coincidences” that produces a signal.

An online yellow card can be filled in at yellowcard.mhra.gov.uk to report problems or incidents with medicines, vaccines, herbal or homeopathic remedies, medical devices (from pacemakers to blood glucose monitors).

A printable Yellow Card form for members of the public is available at Member Of Public Yellow Card Reporting Form (December 2018) (379kb .pdf); for healthcare professionals a printable Yellow Card form may be downloaded from Healthcare Professional Yellow Card Reporting Form (February 2017) (110kb .pdf).

Patients who do not use computers will have to ask friends, family or a carer to do this for them.

 

 

 

 

 

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