Pharmacovigilance, Uppsala and opportunities

IMG_2807 This post is about opportunities we face while being in Sweden that are not available for us in our countries of origin. I think the next post will also cover this very amazing feature of being in this country.

I have worked for pharmaceutical industry all my professional life. I am a pharmacist but I have never worked in a pharmacy. Maybe, I should say I am Pharmaceutical Chemist (the literal translation from my title in Spanish) but, actually, I do not know if that mean something in other parts of the world.

Anyway, during my work life I have been involved several times with Pharmacovigilance (PV) that, according with WHO “is defined as the science and activities relating to the detection, assessment, understanding and prevention of adverse effects or any other drug-related problem.” WHO has its monitoring program on drug safety since the thalidomide disaster in 1961 and works with Uppsala Monitoring Centre (UMC) to promote the development of pharmacovigilance programs at the country level.

When I worked in PV I knew about the Uppsala center and always saw it as the ultimate word on safety for medicines. When I decided to come to Sweden one of the collateral purposes was to meet the people in Uppsala and understand how they work. A colleague in Colombia made the connection to meet a Costa Rican lady that has been working in the UMC for several years. This week I went to accomplish that goal.

I learnt that UMC is very different from I thought. For instance, today I know that it is not funded by WHO although works in close collaboration with it. I also know that it is located in Uppsala because during the late 70s WHO was having struggles financing it and the Swedish government offer to give the money and offered to place it in Uppsala. Currently UMC budget come from its own funds and do not receive money from Swedish government or WHO although both bodies form the board of UMC, which three members appointed by each one. I also learnt that my country is member of this PV program although is not taking advantage of the opportunities given by being part of the program.

During the time of your studies the learning process does not only involve classes or interaction with course partners but there are many sources of knowledge or wisdom. If you are here or come to study you should actively look for these different sources. They can be teachers, different researches, lecturers or, if your interests go beyond the academic frontiers, many other persons from different fields: arts, cooking, design, human relations, and behavior. The possibilities are unlimited.

Some other links:

Uppsala Monitoring Center home page

Thalidomide: The Tragedy of Birth Defects and the Effective Treatment of Disease (at Toxicological Sciences Journal):

WHO Adverse Drug Reactions Monitoring:


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