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What is drug safety and pharmacovigilance?

Kathryn Taylor our consultant managing the role
Published on 13 May 2020
Drug safety – also known as pharmacovigilance - has been a hot topic in the life sciences industry for several years, but perhaps now more so than ever. With the COVID-19 crisis ongoing, there’s now a global race to identify and develop a vaccine. While treatments and vaccines must be developed quickly in order to stem the pandemic, this urgency must still be balanced with safety and efficacy, which is where pharmacovigilance comes in.

With drug safety professionals working hard to help keep us safe and healthy, we’re shining a spotlight on what this industry is, what it does and what roles are available.

Defining drug safety

Pharmacovigilance is a science that involves monitoring the effect of drugs, including detecting, assessing, understanding and preventing side effects. It allows health professionals and the broader public to understand the risks and benefits of medicines - without it, it would be near impossible to assess how effective drugs are in comparison to their side effects. Drug safety protects patients and enables professionals to share crucial information that can ultimately be lifesaving.

A brief history of drug safety

While drug safety now plays an integral role in the wider pharmaceuticals industry, this hasn’t always been the case. The pharmacovigilance process was formalised in the 1960s after the thalidomide tragedy, where a drug marketed as a mild sleeping pill resulted in serious complications in pregnancy and birth defects. The results of this incident were what we now know as drug safety: stringent testing laws were introduced to ensure stricter measures were in place for future drug development.

Recent developments in drug safety

The market has boomed in recent years, with current predictions tipping the global pharmaceuticals market to grow at a CAGR of 13.2% to reach a value of US$13.11 billion by 2027. This growth is partially driven by the increasing incidence of adverse drug reactions, which are responsible for approximately 5% of hospitalisations in Europe every year. 

As drug safety plays a key role in this clinical trial phase, we can expect to see increasing demand for pharmacovigilance services – and therefore professionals – to identify adverse drug effects. In addition, rising demand for medication, particularly to treat chronic diseases, has seen an increase in the number of medicines available to consumers, which has dramatically increased the demand for the development of novel therapeutics. Essentially, as long as society wants and needs safe and effective medication, there will be continued demand for drug safety. 

Working within pharmacovigilance

Ever-evolving drug produce safety requirements, new technologies and ongoing regulatory updates combine with increasing demand to ensure that the drug safety market continues to grow at pace. Professionals within this space are in high demand across the UK, Europe, US and Asia, with a variety of roles working within different manufacturing areas. If you have drug safety experience in the following sectors, you will likely be in demand for both contract and permanent pharmacovigilance roles now and into the future:

  • API
  • Secondary – pharmaceutical and biotech
  • Formulation fill and finish
  • Packaging
  • Medical device
  • Nutraceutical
  • Oral solid dosage
  • Combination products
  • Gene therapy

Find your next pharmacovigilance role with Quanta

At Quanta, we have a broad and deep knowledge of the drug safety market, with strong industry partnerships across the world. We recruit for roles including pharmacovigilance auditor, pharmacovigilance specialist, pharmacovigilance officer, QPPV and more.

Take a look at our pharmacovigilance and regulatory jobs or contact us to start a conversation.