Abu Dhabi: The Ministry of Health and other health authorities are in the process of establishing a national pharmaco-vigilance programme to deal with adverse drug reactions and medication errors.

Plans are on to start the pharmacovigilance programme within a year.

The programme will include the creation of a National Pharmaco-vigilance Centre under the Ministry of Health besides regional centres under the health authorities.

In collaboration with the Ministry of Health, the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD) organised a national workshop on pharmaco-vigilance to raise awareness about drug safety.

The three-day workshop and conference was organised by Dr Fatima Al Braiki from the Ministry of Health and Dr Abdul Karim Smine, team leader Drug Regulation, HAAD, in Abu Dhabi.

The workshop concluded that all current pharmaco-vigilance activities must be assessed and the UAE must become an active member of the international pharmaco-vigilance programme based in Sweden, known as the WHO-Uppsala Monitoring Centre (WHO-UMC).

WHO-UMC collects adverse drug reaction reports from all over the world and only UMC members have access to international drug safety resource.

"While many pharmacovigilance activities are conducted within the UAE, the information collected is generally not analysed and not properly used to improve patient safety. The meeting was the first opportunity for different stakeholders to come together and share experiences, discuss problems of common interest and work together to set the foundation for a UAE national pharmaco-vigilance programme. So far in the [Gulf] region, Oman is the only active member of WHO-UMC," said Dr Smine.

A system was agreed upon to create an effective national pharmaco-vigilance programme to collect both adverse drug reactions and medication errors, analyse them and use the information collected to improve patients' safety.

There are, however, certain conditions to become an active member of WHO-UMC, including having a national centre in the country, active membership, and a certain number of adverse drug reaction related cases on daily or weekly or monthly basis must be reported.

In return, the health authorities in the UAE will gain access to the international database of each member country and learn from the international resources of UMC.

"Diabetes is very high in the UAE and mixing other drugs with diabetes related drugs without physician supervision can be very dangerous. With the new centralised pharmaco-vigilance centre in place, we can monitor the safety of medicines," he said.

The pharmaco-vigilance centre will be a focal point by coordinating all activities in HAAD, Dubai Health Authority, UAE University in Al Ain, Zayed Military Hospital and other institutions.

The meeting was the first opportunity for stakeholders to ... share experiences, discuss problems ... and work together."

Dr Abdul Karim Smine

Team Leader, Drug Regulation, Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD)