Confidence is high in Britain about the safety of drugs, but few people

actually know who regulates them, claims a new study.

The research, commissioned by the UK’s Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and carried out by Ipsos MORI, looked at what the general public and healthcare professionals think about the risks and benefits associated with medicines, how well products are regulated, and on the communication of their risks and benefits.

In terms of the public, the study found that most almost nine in 10 adults in Britain are confident about the safety of medicines (88%) and medical devices (83%), though only 2% identified the MHRA as the country’s drugs regulator. The majority (76%) would consult their doctor if they wished to report side effects of medicines, while 23% say they always weigh up the risks and benefits of a medicine before they decide whether to take it or

not. Almost nine out of 10 people would trust a doctor to provide this

kind of information and pharmacists are also well trusted by 64% of those polled.

As for healthcare professionals, almost 90% of doctors think that medicines are adequately regulated, but no more than one is aware that MHRA is actually responsible for the regulation of treatments.

Reporting of problems varies

Interestingly, the reporting of problems varies greatly. Over eight in 10 GPs and pharmacists say they would notify the MHRA or use its Yellow Card

scheme to report an adverse reaction to a medicine, but only six in 10 hospital physicians and a quarter of nurses would. Only one surgeon in five would contact the MHRA about an adverse incident with a device.

Kent Woods, chief executive of MHRA, said that while the regulator is encouraged by some of the views, especially awareness when reporting

problems, “this research shows us some of the gaps in knowledge of our work.” He added: “We are now looking for the best ways of increasing the understanding both of the public and of healthcare professionals about our work.”