Medical Writing Risk Management Risk Management

Volume 24, Issue 2 - Risk Management

Risk Management

The thalidomide tragedy of the early 1960s cost several thousand lives, but it ultimately led to changes that will undoubtedly save many thousands more: it triggered a chain of events involving the WHO and the ICH that resulted in the pharmacovigilance systems we have today.

A key aspect of pharmacovigilance – the safety monitoring of drugs after their licensing – is risk management, which aims to better understand the benefit-risk profiles of drugs and minimise their risks to patients. A rapidly evolving area, risk management is the theme of both this issue of Medical Writing and the 3rd EMWA Symposium in Dublin.

In December 2008 the European Commission unveiled the so-called ‘EU Pharma Package’, a set of proposals to give EU citizens better access to information on medicines and better protection from the harms caused by genuine and fake medicines. This package was followed by new pharmacovigilance legislation – Directive 2010/84/EU and Regulation (EU) 1235/2010 – which came into force in July 2012, and a revised good pharmacovigilance practices (GVP) guideline from the EMA, published in April 2014: Module V – Risk management systems (Rev 1).

Writing in this issue of Medical Writing, Tiziana von Bruchhausen and Kerstin Prechtel explore how these recent changes have affected safety medical writing, increasing document complexity and helping to create a new role: the pharmacovigilance medical writer. They identify some of the personal qualities pharmacovigilance writers require and outline the processes by which they can prepare Risk Management Plans (RMPs) for different purposes.

In Europe, an RMP must be submitted to the EMA with each new marketing authorisation application. Since July 2012, the EMA's RMP has had a modular format. Sandra Götsch guides us through its seven parts (I–VII) and eight modules (SI–SVIII), providing insights, tips, and – for those of us who are new to RMPs – reassurance!

RMPs are further covered in a feature article by Lesley Wise, who describes how the risk management of approved medicines has seen an increasing focus on continued benefit-risk activities throughout a medicine's lifecycle. Lesley examines the historical background to benefit-risk assessment, changes to the content and format of RMPs in the EMA's revised GVP guideline (see above), and the new ICH standard for periodic benefit-risk evaluation: the Periodic Benefit-Risk Evaluation Report (PBRER).

Looking to the future (perhaps the not-so-distant future), Massoud Toussi, Lisa Chamberlain James, and Alasdair Breckenridge explore the possible role of social media in adverse event (AE) reporting. They explain the value of AE data from social media and highlight technological and other developments that are needed for such data to be properly captured and used, potentially revolutionising pharma's pharmacovigilance activities.

The Geoff Hall Scholarship winners

Are medical writers ghostwriters?

In this issue, we also announce the winners of the Geoff Hall Scholarships, which are annual scholarships in honour of a former EMWA president. They are awarded to new medical writers on the basis of an essay competition. This year's theme was ‘Are medical writers ghostwriters?’ The winners are Andreas Sakka and Nicholas Churton. Their excellent essays give us newcomers' views about this controversial topic.

Reaching out to non-native English-speaking medical writers

Non-native English-speaking medical writers are an important but perhaps underserved part of our association. Much of this has to do with English being the lingua franca of medical writing and therefore EMWA, but some medical writers write in their own language or at least translate to and from their own language. To reach out to these non-native English-speaking medical writers, Maria Kołtowska-Häggström started a new section, Lingua Franca and Beyond, in the last issue of Medical Writing. In this issue's instalment, she invites native English speakers to her section to learn about the work and needs of their non-native English-speaking colleagues. Also in this section, Laura C. Collada Ali, a medical translator living in Italy and a member of EMWA's Executive Committee from 2013 to 2015, writes about the importance of having non-native speakers of English involved in EMWA and the Executive Committee. Laura also brings her fantastic energy to the pages of Medical Writing by rekindling Gained in Translation, our regular feature dedicated to medical translation. She further contributes her regular Profiles section, in which she continues her series of interviews of medical writers and translators from all over Europe.

Download the full article



Risk Management
President's Message
The changing face of (benefit-)risk management
Pharmacovigilance medical writing: An evolving profession
A shot at demystifying the risk management plan for medical writers
Using social media as the patient's voice in the benefit-risk assessment of drugs: Are we ready?
Special section: Winners of the Geoff Hall Scholarship essay competition
News from the EMA
Profile: An interview with Ingrid Edsman on why attending EMWA conferences is so rewarding!
The Webscout
In the Bookstores
Regulatory Writing: Review process in regulatory writing
Lingua Franca and Beyond
Gained in Translation
Manuscript Writing
English Grammar and Style: Revising medical writing Reasons not rules: Backtracking, pronoun-induced Part 3 - Double syntactic unit revision and syntactic position revision
Out On Our Own


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Editoral Board


Raquel Billiones


Evguenia Alechine

Jonathan Pitt

Managing Editor

Victoria White

Deputy Managing Editor

Alicia Brooks Waltman

Associate Editors

Anuradha Alahari

Jennifer Bell

Nicole Bezuidenhout

Claire Chang

Barbara Grossman

Sarah Milner

John Plant

Sampoorna Rappaz

Amy Whereat

Section Editors

Daniela Kamir


Jennifer Bell


Nicole Bezuidenhout 

Digital Communication

Somsuvro Basu

EMWA News 

Ana Sofia Correia 

Gained in Translation

Ivana Turek

Getting Your Foot in the Door

Wendy Kingdom / Amy Whereat

Good Writing Practice

Alison McIntosh 

In the Bookstores

Maria Kołtowska-Häggström

Lingua Franca and Beyond

Maddy Dyer


Lisa Chamberlain-James

Medical Communications/Writing for Patients

Payal Bhatia

Medical Devices

Evguenia Alechine

My First Medical Writing

Anuradha Alahari

News from the EMA

Adriana Rocha


Tiziana von Bruchhausen


Clare ChangZuo Yen Lee 

Regulatory Matters

Sam Hamilton

Regulatory Public Disclosure

Claire Gudex

Teaching Medical Writing

Louisa Ludwig-Begall / Sarah Kabani

The Crofter: Sustainable Communications

Louisa Marcombes

Veterinary Writing

Editors Emeritus

Elise Langdon-Neuner

Phil Leventhal

Layout Designer

Chris Monk