Lancet Oncology takes on Pharmacovigilance

  • by: Peter Pitts |
  • 11/01/2016
The November issue of Lancet Oncology focuses on pharmacovigilance and drug safety. The lead editorial drives home some key points:

At a time when the number of biological agents due to come off patent is increasing, and in the face of a market fuelled by escalating drug prices and pressure from pharmaceutical companies and patient groups alike for expedited drug approval, issues surrounding the safety and efficacy of agents such as biosimilars and generics are paramount.

Substantial variation exists between high-income and low-to-middle-income countries with regards to manufacturing and supply chain regulation of generic drugs, despite countries such as India providing a large market share of generic drugs worldwide. Moreover, bioequivalence—a key consideration when comparing generic formulations with their trademarked counterparts—can vary substantially, making appropriate regulation particularly important. Issues of safety and regulation are further compounded when approving biosimilars: despite nearly 10 years’ of experience in dealing with biosimilar agents, regulators still need to streamline and expedite approval processes, and improve ways of reducing cost. Thus, taken together, the importance of pharmacovigilance has never been greater.

Given that multiple health-care systems encourage or enforce generic and biosimilar prescribing, sometimes without physician knowledge or consent, coupled with further potential complications created by generic or biosimilar switching during a course of treatment, pharmacovigilance needs to evolve beyond merely the uncovering, monitoring, and reporting of adverse events, to continual pre-marketing and post-marketing surveillance.
Although a focus on regulatory and policy issues is key to monitoring safety and     efficacy, especially for newer agents, there are other ways in which drug safety can be improved.

The November issue also includes my new paper, 21st century pharmacovigilance: efforts, roles, and responsibilities.

Here’s the abstract:

In an era when the number of expedited and conditional review pathways for newly available brand-name drugs and biosimilar medicines to treat serious and life-threatening diseases is increasing, defining pharmacovigilance has never been more crucial. 21st century pharmacovigilance is not merely about uncovering, reporting, and addressing adverse events associated with already approved and marketed agents, but can be described as the systematic monitoring of the process of pre-market review and post-market surveillance, which includes the use of medicines in everyday practice. Pharmacovigilance identifies previously unrecognised adverse events or changes in the patterns of these effects, the quality and adequacy of drug supply, and should ensure effective communication with the public, health-care professionals, and patients about the optimum safety and effective use of medicines. In this paper, the first in a Series of three about drug safety in oncology, we discuss evolving challenges in the purview, roles, and responsibilities of the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency with respect to pharmacovigilance efforts, with a special emphasis on oncology treatment.

If you’d like a copy of this article, please contact me at

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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