UK regulators have launched a pilot of a Yellow Card-type scheme for reporting adverse effects associated with legal highs and other illicit drugs.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which regulates medicines and medical devices in the UK, says the number of new psychoactive substances — otherwise known as legal highs — has increased rapidly.
Between 2009–2010 and 2014–2015 there was a 44% rise in hospital admissions in England and Wales of people who had taken the illicit substances, the MHRA says.
The new reporting scheme has been set up in conjunction with Public Health England to collect more detail on the long-term harm to health associated with the use of the drugs and potential interaction with licensed medicines.
Health professionals working in the NHS across the UK in A&E departments, general practice, drug treatment services, sexual health services, mental health services and other sectors are encouraged to fill in the ‘report illicit drug reaction form’, which will be available for one year.
Based on the Yellow Card scheme for reporting adverse drug reactions, registered users can report acute and chronic health problems related to patients who have taken any of the new psychoactive substances, the MHRA says.
Suspected interactions between licensed medicines and illicit drugs should also be reported via the Yellow Card scheme.
The website also details where healthcare professionals can find out more information about legal highs.