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Dial this toll free number to report adverse drug reactions

New Delhi: Reporting an adverse drug reaction is only a dial away. The Indian Pharmacopoeia Commission (IPC), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has been operating a toll free number facility under Pharmacovigilance Programme of India to report adverse drug reactions for more than a year now. Though the service was launched in October 2013, apparently, not many doctors and patients are still aware of it.

The information received thorough the toll free number 1800-180-3024 is screened and assessed by the Adverse Drug Reaction Monitoring Centres (AMCs) and is analysed using international parameters set by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The information is then forwarded to the National Coordinating Centre (NCC), which maintains a database for adverse drug reactions (ADRs).

V Kalaiselvan, principal scientific officer, Indian Pharmacopoeia Commission, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, told India Medical Times, “Indian Pharmacopoeia Commission (IPC), National Coordinating Centre (NCC) for Pharmacovigilance Programme of India (PvPI) introduced helpline (toll free) 1800-180-3024 facility for the healthcare professionals and public to provide assistance in adverse drug reactions (ADRs) reporting. The NCC forwards the ADRs reporter details to the nearest ADRs monitoring centre of the reporter. Then the PvPI team at ADRs monitoring centre follows the patients to get the complete information required for the assessment of the event.”

Postmarking surveillance or pharmacovigilance is a necessary exercise to prevent ADRs by maintaining adequate information on drug toxicity and medication errors after the medicines are approved and marketed. Reporting of adverse drug reactions is the most practical and cost-efficient method of post-marketing surveillance, as study of every medication on the market is practically impossible and requires huge resources.

According to experts, though the pharmacovigilance cells in hospitals are mandated to report cases of drug reactions and medication errors, the reporting mechanism is still weak and many hospitals have not set up a cell till date.

Still the new initiative, launched especially to enhance patient safety and healthcare provider’s accountability, remains a low-key affair with doctors largely unaware of its existence.

Speaking about the poor awareness of the service, Kalaiselvan said, “NCC is passing this information through e-media, conferences, seminar etc. Gradually the response from healthcare professionals and public is increasing. This is the facility developed by NCC to easily connect with the public and healthcare professionals in ADRs reporting.”

Dr Gaurav Pandey, general physician, Deep Chand Bandhu Government Hospital, New Delhi told India Medical times, “I didn’t know that such a service by government exists. I would like to make use of it, but only after making a wise calculation of the reason of adverse drug reaction. It could be from the patient side or from the drug side. Some patients are allergic to specific drugs but it does not mean that the drug is unsuitable to all or the drug is bad. So a careful analysis is what is needed before recommending adverse reactions.”

Dr Satendra Singh, assistant professor of physiology at the University College of Medical Sciences, New Delhi told India Medical Times, “If such a toll free number exists then it is definitely a very positive step by the government. However, awareness about the number seems very poor at present. Starting a service but not popularizing it will not serve the purpose. It should be propagated at all healthcare centres along with its purpose for a patient to understand. Not many doctors know about it, so awareness among patients could be even lower.”

According to experts, adverse drug reaction cases are on the rise in India. The problem further exacerbates due to poor reporting mechanism in hospitals that still have to set up the mandated pharmacovigilance cells. In addition, it has also been found that there is a dearth of technical associates (TAs) at many ADRs monitoring centres (AMCs). TAs are responsible for collecting information from the patients, performing follow-up with them, entering information in the prescribed format and sending them to the headquarters.

The toll-free number is expected to improve the underreporting of ADRs and empower doctors and patients. However, the government also has to strengthen the basic infrastructure and spruce up human resource at hospitals as well as monitoring centres along with an aggressive awareness campaign for fair reporting.

by Vidhi Rathee

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