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The Yellow Card Scheme

The Yellow Card Scheme was launched in Britain in 1964 after the thalidomide tragedy highlighted the importance of following up problems that occur after a drug has been licensed. Reports are sent to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which analyzes the results. Each year, the MHRA receives more than 20,000 reports of possible side-effects. Initially, only doctors could file the reports, but then nurses, pharmacists, coroners, dentists, radiographers and optometrists were encouraged to do so. Since 2005, patients and carers have been invited to report suspected adverse reactions. Reports can be filed online at www.yellowcard.gov.uk, by post, or by phone. One patient summarised her experience this way: ‘Being able to report side effects through the Yellow Card Scheme puts you in control. It means that you can report directly without having to wait for a busy healthcare professional to do it . . . It’s about putting patients at the centre of care. It’s a quantum leap for patient involvement, and marks the beginning of the way forward and a sea change in attitude.’

Bowser A. A patient’s view of the Yellow Card Scheme. In: Medicines & Medical Devices Regulation: what you need to know. London: MHRA, 2008. Available at www.mhra.gov.uk