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What is Pharmacovigilance (Drug Safety)?

Kathryn Taylor our consultant managing the role
Published on 8 May 2024
Pharmacovigilance, also known as drug safety, has been a hot topic in the life sciences industry for several years, but perhaps now more so than ever. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a global race to identify and develop a vaccine. This highlighted the need to balance the urgency to develop treatments and vaccines quickly with the need to ensure these are safe and effective. This 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 pharmacovigilance and drug safety

Pharmacovigilance is the science that involves monitoring the effect of drugs, including detecting, assessing, understanding and preventing side effects. 

Pharmacovigilance 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 pharmacovigilance

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. Marketed as a drug marketed as a mild sleeping pill, thalidomide treatment resulted in serious complications in pregnancy and birth defects. This incident highlighted the urgent need for stricter drug safety measures. This led to the introduction of stringent testing laws, laying the foundation for modern drug safety practices when it comes to drug development.

What are recent developments in pharmacovigilance?

The pharmaceuticals market has boomed in recent years, and the global pharmacovigilance market is predicted to grow at a CAGR of 7% to reach a value of US$11.7 billion by 2030. 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 an increasing demand for pharmacovigilance services – and therefore pharmacovigilance professionals who can 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.This has in turn 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 specialists. 

What are the career opportunities within pharmacovigilance?

The ever-evolving drug manufacturing market, new technologies and ongoing regulatory updates lead to an increase demand to ensure that the drug safety market also continues to grow at pace. 

Professionals within the pharmacovigilance space are in high demand across the UK, Europe, US and Asia, with a variety of roles available within different manufacturing areas. 

If you have the required pharmacovigilance skills and you also have experience in the following sectors of the pharmaceutical industry, you will likely be sought after 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

How to 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, qualified person responsible for pharmacovigilance (QPPV) and more.

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