Last Wednesday, the MRC Centre for Drug Safety Science at the University of Liverpool launched a public guide, Making Sense of Drug Safety Science, in collaboration with Sense About Science.
Side effects, or adverse drug reactions, are a big public health concern and can be a barrier to the development of new medicines, causing many promising new drugs to be dropped at the development stage or in clinical trials. As the guide explains, drug safety science is helping us learn more about side effects, what gives rise to them and the harm they can cause. Researchers are working on developing tests to predict who will experience side effects. This can allow a beneficial drug to continue and to be used by people who are not at risk.
I have often been asked to tackle this subject by outspoken defenders of alternative treatments. This post will hopefully explain how we can establish whether the benefits outweigh the harms, what some of the pitfalls are, and what we can do to improve. I would also urge those using unregulated treatments to consider what safeguards are in place to research the side effects of these, to inform the public about the harms they may cause and to protect us from them. Continue reading