Drugs help us cure diseases and are therefore arguably one of the best inventions of mankind. However, drugs are not perfect, and all of them induce side-effects. Some are more harmful than others, but it is always necessary to carefully document what medicine does to a patient. That is why drugs tested in clinical trials are first administered, in very low doses, to healthy volunteers: scientists first want to know about the side-effects before actually testing something on fragile patients. The European Union has decided to create a database in order to keep track of all the suspected side-effects that drugs cause. This ought to help us increase drug safety and spread awareness about possible side-effects.
The European Medicine Agency is responsible for the database, and can be found on a website called Suspected Adverse Drug Reaction Reports. In its role as pharmaceutical watchdog, the EMA is responsible for regulating the industry and provide a license for new drugs to be released on the market. Therefore, by creating the database, the EMA strives to increase transparency when it comes to drug information and safety.
Currently, the suspected side-effects of about 650 drugs can be found in the database. The number of drugs should increase over time, as clinicians contribute by reporting their findings. However, the EMA does stress that the database consists of information about suspected side-effects, which means the reported findings may or may not be directly related to drug effects.
A publicly accessible database for drug information contributes to safety, as it brings the effects of medicine into the open. Because the data is available to everyone, it helps doctors decide about the best drug to give to a patient, and scientists to find out whether more research is required to find out exactly what a given substance does in the body.