Right now, i’m working through a couple of interesting things. The first is the book Pharmacovigilance: Critique and Ways Forward, edited by Ralph Edwards and Marie Lindquist – UMC’s former and current director, respectively. This book was first published in 2017, but I’m actually reading the Chinese translation, as that’s my native language and I’m very much involved in training and capacity-building activities in China.
This book is a collection of 18 chapters, written by some of the most experienced pharmacovigilance experts from around the world. It emerged out of a series of meetings of the International Society of Pharmacovigilance to examine the current state of pharmacovigilance, identify its strengths, but also – and in many ways more crucially – draw attention to the shortcomings in the current discipline.
I like that the book takes a broad approach, looking at everything from education, regulation, best practices, research methods, to communications, and quite a lot more. I’m impressed that the authors also put a lot of thought into some of pharmacovigilance’s foundational concepts and they question what the true scope of pharmacovigilance practice should be.
I’m also currently reading several articles on the treatment of the coronavirus infection, COVID-19. In recent years, there has been a lot of effort put into drug repurposing programmes. The potential use of chloroquine on the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 in an urgent situation is an example.
However, we need to be very clear that the current available evidence of the drug’s efficacy and safety for treating COVID-19 is limited and relatively weak. Some treatment guidelines have incorporated the usage of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine for certain patients with COVID-19, but this will require detailed monitoring and follow-up.
We also need to advise doctors and patients very clearly that chloroquine can lead to serious cardiac problems in some patients – it is known to cause QT interval prolongation – and other side effects, particularly with high dose. In fact, there have been some media reports of serious poisoning cases arising out of self- experimentation. Therefore, people need to be very careful with these drugs and only take them under medical supervision.