How you can help make medicines safer

The medicines you get on prescription from your GP and those you buy over the counter at your local pharmacy are safe and effective. But side effects can happen, says the government’s Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

And now, experts from the MHRA are calling for more people to report suspected side effects to help make our medicines even safer.

Potential side effects may range from a headache or upset stomach to flu-like symptoms or just feeling a bit under the weather. You may not think these symptoms are important, but if you report any side effects you suspect you’re experiencing, it can help regulators monitor medicines on the market and take action as appropriate.

The MHRA relies on the reported of suspected side effects – however it claims not enough people are reporting them.

“The most important part of our work is making sure the medicines you and your family take are effective and acceptably safe,” says Mick Foy, group manager for MHRA’s Vigilance and Risk Management of Medicines division.

“You can help make medicines safer by reporting any suspected side effects easily and quickly through the Yellow Card Scheme.”

The MHRA recently took part in a social media campaign to promote reporting of suspected side effects from over-the-counter medicines. You can view a video the agency made for the campaign on YouTube.

What can you report?

The scheme accepts reports for all medicines, including vaccines, herbal medicines, homeopathic remedies and all medical devices available on the UK market. Since 2016, the scheme has also accepted reports of safety concerns associated with e-cigarette products.

The scheme collects information on suspected problems or incidents involving the following:

  • Side effects (also called adverse drug reactions)
  • Medical device adverse incidents
  • Defective medicines (medicines not reaching an acceptable quality)
  • Counterfeit or fake medicines or medical devices
  • Safety concerns for e-cigarettes or their refill containers (e-liquids)

You can also report suspected side effects experienced by your child or someone else you’re responsible for, such as a partner, if you have their permission. You’ll have to include the name of the medicine suspected to have caused the side effect, details of the side effect itself and some basic information about the person taking the medicine.

If you don’t want to make your report online, your pharmacist can give you a patient Yellow Card form, or you can call the Yellow Card scheme on 0800 731 6789 (10am – 2pm Monday to Friday).

Meanwhile if you’re experiencing any problems at all with your medicines or have any concerns of questions about them, your local Careway pharmacist can help answer all your queries and put your mind at rest. Many Careway pharmacies also offer a service called a medicines use review (MUR), which is a face-to-face consultation with your pharmacist during which you can discuss any medicines you’re taking (prescribed or non-prescribed).

Find your nearest participating Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.