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Drug Saf. 2019 Jan;42(1):27-34. doi: 10.1007/s40264-018-0713-8.

The Social Impact of Suspected Adverse Drug Reactions: An analysis of the Canada Vigilance Spontaneous Reporting Database.

Author information

Faculty of Pharmacy, Université de Montréal, Montreal, QC, Canada.
YOLARX Consultants, Montreal, QC, Canada.
University of Bordeaux, INSERM U1219, Pharmacoepidemiology Team, Bordeaux, France.
Service de Pharmacologie Médicale, CHU de Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France.
Faculty of Pharmacy, Université de Montréal, Montreal, QC, Canada.
YOLARX Consultants, Montreal, QC, Canada.



Some adverse drug reactions (ADRs) may involve direct social issues, such as impaired quality of life, work productivity, or social functioning, as opposed to being social consequences of medical adverse events. Data on ADRs with a direct social impact remain scarce in the literature.


Our objective was to describe the ADRs consisting of direct social issues that have been recorded in the Canadian national spontaneous reporting system (Canada Vigilance).


We conducted an analysis of the online Canada Vigilance spontaneous reporting database from 1 January 1965 (inception) to 31 December 2015 (last date available). We manually examined all Medical Dictionary for Regulatory Activities (MedDRA) preferred terms (PTs) found in the Canada Vigilance database to identify those that involved direct social issues. We then used those PTs to search for relevant individual case safety reports (ICSRs). We conducted a descriptive analysis of the following ICSR characteristics: patient and reporter characteristics, type of ADR, seriousness (as assessed by the reporter and according to the International Conference on Harmonisation criteria of seriousness), and suspected drug(s). We compared the characteristics of ADRs with and without direct social impact.


Among the 11,946 MedDRA PTs recorded in Canada Vigilance, we retained 40 that had a direct social impact. Using these PTs, we identified 9557 relevant ICSRs (corresponding to 6670 patients). The proportion of ADRs consisting of direct social issues increased over time, with a sharp transient peak in 2008. The majority were reported by healthcare professionals and consumers (56.7 and 37.8%, respectively). The mean age of patients was 45.4 years, and 53.3% were females. Direct social issues consisted of personality disorders and behaviour disturbances (41.6%) followed by neurological disorders (34.2%). The majority of ADRs were considered serious by reporters (76.5%), with 26.8% resulting in hospitalization. Commonly suspected health products included nervous system drugs (63.3%) and antineoplastic and immunomodulating agents (23.6%). Compared with other ADRs, those with a direct social impact were more often reported by consumers, involved patients who were on average 5 years younger, and were more frequently assessed as being serious by the reporters.


Findings from this study support the consideration of direct social issues as ADRs in the detection of drug safety signals.


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