The Yellow Card Scheme
The Yellow Card Scheme is vital in helping the MHRA monitor the safety of the medicines and vaccines that are on the market.
Before a medicine is granted a licence so that it can be made available in the United Kingdom, it must pass strict tests and checks to ensure that it is acceptably safe and effective. All effective medicines, however, can cause side effects (also known as adverse drug reactions), which can range from being minor to being very serious. For a medicine to be granted a licence, the expected benefits of the medicine must outweigh the possible risks of the medicine causing adverse effects in patients. Sometimes, it is difficult to tell whether a possible side effect is due to a medicine, or something else. Even if it is only a suspicion that a medicine or combination of medicines has caused a side effect, we ask patients and health professionals to send us a Yellow Card.
Yellow Card reports that we receive on suspected side effects are evaluated, together with additional sources of information such as clinical trial data, medical literature or data from international medicines regulators, in order to identify previously unidentified safety issues or side effects.
Information gathered from Yellow Card reports made by patients and health professionals is continually assessed at the MHRA by a team of medicine safety experts made up of doctors, pharmacists and scientists who study the benefits and risks of medicines. If a new side effect is identified, information is carefully considered in the context of the overall side effect profile for the medicine, and how the side effect profile compares with other medicines used to treat the same condition. The MHRA takes action, whenever necessary, to ensure that medicines are used in a way that minimizes risk, while maximizing patient benefit.
In assessing the safety of medicines, the MHRA is advised by the Commission on Human Medicines (CHM), which is the Governments independent scientific advisory body on medicines safety. The CHM is made up of experts from a range of health professionals and includes lay representatives.