Gold standards in pharmacovigilance: the use of definitive anecdotal reports of adverse drug reactions as pure gold and high-grade ore.
Hauben M., Aronson JK.
Anecdotal reports of adverse drug reactions are generally regarded as being of poor evidential quality. This is especially relevant for postmarketing drug safety surveillance, which relies heavily on spontaneous anecdotal reports. The numerous limitations of spontaneous reports cannot be overemphasised, but there is another side to the story: these datasets also contain anecdotal reports that can be considered to describe definitive adverse reactions, without the need for further formal verification. We have previously defined four categories of such adverse reactions: (i) extracellular or intracellular tissue deposition of the drug or a metabolite; (ii) a specific anatomical location or pattern of injury; (iii) physiological dysfunction or direct tissue damage demonstrable by physicochemical testing; and (iv) infection, as a result of the administration of an infective agent as the therapeutic substance or because of demonstrable contamination. In this article, we discuss the implications of these definitive ('between-the-eyes') adverse effects for pharmacovigilance.