A clearing house for information

The Uppsala Monitoring Centre has an important role to play as a communication centre—a clearing house for information on drug safety at the service of drug regulatory agencies, the pharmaceutical industry, researchers, and other groups in need of drug safety information (13 ). Requests for special database searches and investigations are received from these parties at a rate of around 300 per year. In addition, flexible on-line retrieval programmes are made available through Internet, by which database users can perform a variety of standardized searches by themselves. Access for non-member parties is subjected to confidentiality restrictions agreed by Programme members. Countries have the right to refuse the release of their own information if they so wish, and some do. Use of the information released is subject to a caveat document as to its proper use. Detailed manuals for the on-line service and the customized retrievals on request are available from the Uppsala centre.

WHO member countries are provided with the WHO Pharmaceuticals Newsletter, distributed by the Health Technology & Pharmaceuticals department of WHO headquarters. The Uppsala Monitoring Centre is responsible for the information that is included in the drug safety section of this newsletter, which is also available from the WHO web site. An agreement with Adis International has allowed information from newsletters produced by members of the WHO Programme to be printed in "Reactions Weekly". The agreement includes making this journal available to national centres at heavily discounted subscription rates, greatly enhancing their access to up-to-the-minute information on adverse drug reactions.

"Uppsala Reports" is the name of a bulletin that is made freely available to all interested parties by the Uppsala Monitoring Centre. It provides an easy-to-read account of news about pharmacovigilance in general, the WHO Programme, and its members and services.

Communications within the WHO Programme have improved with the increasing use of electronic communications media. The Uppsala Monitoring Centre maintains an e-mail discussion group called "Vigimed", which allows rapid exchange of information around the world on drug safety matters. Membership is restricted to persons connected with national pharmacovigilance centres.

The Internet home page of the WHO Programme (http://www.who-umc.org) was introduced in 1996. It is intended to be developed into a dynamic tool for communications with all clients of the Uppsala Monitoring Centre. Recently, internet-based seminars and training courses were introduced on the Uppsala Monitoring Centre web site.

The Uppsala Monitoring Centre publishes a book, "National Pharmacovigilance Systems— Country Profiles and Overview" (14), in which the operating procedures of the national centres that participate in the WHO Programme are described.

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