A social media project to raise drug safety awareness in Kuwait

Although there is yet to be a national pharmacovigilance centre in Kuwait, Reem Al-Essa launched a social media campaign to inform the public in her country about adverse effects and how to report them.

A social media project to raise drug safety awareness in Kuwait

Pharmacovigilance has been a growing challenge in Kuwait and the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. Ensuring patient safety has been the target of all regulatory authorities since their inception in the region in the mid 20th century. The implementation of the Common Technical Documents harmonised the approval process for pharmaceutical and biotechnology products in the Gulf states over the last five years. This improvement of pre-market assessment drew regulatory attention towards the need to monitor the safety and effectiveness of medicines after marketing approval. Oman was the first country in the GCC region to set up an adverse drug reaction (ADR) monitoring centre, and has been a full member of the WHO Programme for International Drug Monitoring since 1995. Saudi Arabia followed in 2009 and the United Arab Emirates in 2013, while Bahrain and Qatar are associate members.

دور اليقظة الدوائية في عمل الدراسات التي تعتمد عليها اقتصاديات الدواء #صيدلة #اليقظة_الدوائيةhttps://t.co/Jrp6mkGNeW

— Report Me Kuwait (@ReportMeKwt) December 4, 2017

Kuwait was one of the first Arab states to recognize the need for a pharmacovigilance centre to monitor the safety of locally-approved medicines. A study published in 1985 evaluated spontaneous ADR reporting patterns between 1981 and 1984, and advocated the establishment of a national ADR monitoring centre. The study showed that of 704 reports received from 26 hospitals and health clinics, 90.5% were classified as possible drug-ADR causal relationships. Based on these results, the health authority in Kuwait expressed its intention to establish a national ADR monitoring centre.

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The regulatory authority has been vigilant to any action taken by recognized regulatory systems and it has taken immediate action regarding the safety of registered products accordingly. Unfortunately, the local health authorities have not yet established a legal framework for pharmacovigilance, although all elements for a well-developed system exist: an established unit, experienced professionals, guidelines and technological tools; all under the regulatory directorate at the Ministry of Health.

For a pharmacovigilance system to see the light of day in Kuwait, public awareness of medicines safety needed to be raised, and that is where the idea for Report Me Kuwait originated. The aim of the project is to teach patients, consumers and caregivers why they should report adverse effects, and how, when and where to submit a report. The project also aims to raise healthcare professionals’ awareness of the urgency to report adverse effects encountered in their clinical or community practice.

Social media was selected to allow for direct interaction with the target audience. The spread of information has never been so fast until social media and mobile technology were invented and made such a tremendous social, cultural, educational and political impact. In Kuwait and other Arab countries, people spend most of their online time on mobile devices. The majority of the population, between 20 and 65 years of age, uses social media to share information, build a social image, demonstrate new ideas, interact and nurture relationships, or participate in new interventions to make positive changes to our world. The power of social media offered an opportunity for Report Me Kuwait to spread its word past national boundaries to all other Arab countries, simply using the mobile devices everyone holds in their hands.

Report Me Kuwait is present on all the major social media platforms and currently has over 2,600 followers on LinkedIn, about 1,300 on Instagram, and a growing presence on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and YouTube. Posts include short videos, informative cards and brochures about medicines safety, the need to report adverse events, and the impact of pharmacovigilance on society. The project has been featured in local TV shows and newspapers, and the first signs of its impact on the public are becoming visible.

Since its inception in January 2017, eight ADR reports have been forwarded to the local health authority via Report Me Kuwait, a good number considering the absence of an official pharmacovigilance framework in the country and the general lack of awareness on the topic. The eight reports came from consumers, who were very keen to report the adverse events but did not know where or how to report until Report Me Kuwait offered a solution. Users wishing to report an adverse event can reach out to Report Me Kuwait and will receive a link to an electronic reporting form that can be forwarded directly to the health authority. The form also contains contact information for the prescribing healthcare professional or the pharmacist who dispensed the drug, so that the health authority can communicate with them, should they find the ADR report to be critical.

Report Me Kuwait followers increase daily, a sign that there is a growing interest in pharmacovigilance, and it is hoped that the project will serve as inspiration for similar initiatives in the Arab world in the future.*

Reem K. Al-Essa
Senior Pharmacy Specialist, Drug Inspection Administration, Drug and Food Control Sector, Ministry of Health, Kuwait

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