It has been well recognized that effective communication is the core of successful pharmacovigilance. The purpose of interactions among healthcare professionals, patients, regulators and pharmacovigilance experts is to manage risks with medicine and prevent patient harm. Although communication is not a new issue, there is an urgent need of ideas with which to practice it appropriately and experiment new methods.
Why is it urgent? Adverse drug reaction (ADR) can be life threatening and is in fact a leading cause of morbidity and mortality. The lack of information and communication has been discussed and seen as a challenge for pharmacovigilance professionals. It is common for people to ask for advice and remedies from websites and social media in today’s world. Although most people have access to information, not many really understand what they are reading or get the knowledge they are looking for, since not all content on the Internet is validated.
Patients are concerned about their lack of understanding, and want their medical risks to be taken seriously; while healthcare professionals tend to prefer benefits to risks of medicines. The difference in perceptions can and should only be eliminated by two-way communication. This requires surveys and research on patients for an extended period. Additionally, it would be beneficial for patients to have longer and more detailed consultations; however, it will be more expensive and put pressure on healthcare professionals.
Communication between healthcare professionals, regulators and the public is also challenging. The public often demands information and transparency, while decision makers’ priority is benefit-risk balance. Since experts and regulators fear the public drug scare, or failed vaccination programme, it is understandable that they are reluctant to explain to mass media all the risks and possible harms that medicines may cause.
Successful communication achieves advocacy. Failure can create social problem and damage public trust in government, which is difficult to rebuild. For these reasons communication in pharmacovigilance is a challenging task that should be focused on and carefully practiced by health authorities.