Pharmacovigilance (PV) Course: A Sojourn which Prompts a Second Visit

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The goal of the recent East African Advanced course on Pharmacovigilance (PV) that was held in Asmara from 10 – 17 April 2016 was to strengthen the Pharmacovigilance system in East Africa by applying latest Pharmacovigilance methods to ensure the safety of medicines and vaccines by inviting internationally well-known experts in the field.

By Kesete Ghebrehiwet,

The spirit of Eritreans continues to amaze a number of foreigners who sojourned to the country in a work visit or for recreation. Various experts in different disciplines have shared experiences with Eritrean counter parts. Medical experts from around the world are among those who have made frequent visits to the country. The recent East African Advanced course on Pharmacovigilance (PV) was attended by a number of experts representing almost each continent.

What participants of the advanced course or other visiting tourists really found so impressive about Eritrea is the commitment and hospitality of its people. Processional eagerness and diligence to make a difference in every sector intensifies their amazement and prompts them to maintain attachment with the country.

Railway enthusiasts visited the country to document the engineering wonders of a century old steam locomotive, while medical experts continue to make visits for ‘know-how’ purpose. All visitors have learned a great deal about the steady progress that made in all sectors. Besides the PV training course, the participants had the opportunity to tour the capital city Asmara and the port city of Massawa.

After his return from Asmara, Bruce Hugman, from the Uppsala Monitoring Center, Global Communications Team, commented about his stay in Eritrea on the occasion of the PV course held in Asmara Palace from 10 – 17 April 2016 as follows:

“I have been to many, many courses and meeting over the years, but few have been as dynamic, well organized and enjoyable as this recent event in Asmara. While being intensely focused on professional matters you also managed to achieve a level of informality and sociability that was remarkable and your generous hospitality was amazing.

In many countries the presence of just one minister would have paralyzed the whole affair for hours, but with Madam Amina (and Dr. Josephine) we were able to relax and enjoy their company, intelligence and good humor, and get on with our work. 
The administration of the course was remarkable, before and during the event; under great pressure, everyone performed well and kept their smiles! There seemed to be no problem that you weren’t willing to tackle and to solve. Much was going on behind the scenes and we can only imagine the challenges being dealt with.”

There were a number of events Bruce Hugman cherishes in his mind. He shares his impression about the media coverage to the course, his visit to Massawa and his overall stay in the country. Let’s see what he treasures in his mind in his own words:

“Your documentation of the course in pictures and video was more ambitious than I have ever seen and I sincerely hope you can exploit these resources in the future for the benefit of many more people. The TV and newsprint coverage was extraordinary – probably more column inches and air time for PV than in the rest of the world in the last year!  Incredibly impressive and a fine example for others. 
Social events, transport, site-seeing all first class. The trip to Massawa was a dream and in a class of its own.”

Mr. Bruce Hugman finally said: “Thank you all for everything you did to make the visit so positive and memorable. I am immensely grateful for the invitation to attend and hope, one day, to be able to return to a country with such lovable people, such a stirring history and such professional ambition.”

Michael Deats, from the Medical Safety, Surveillance and Monitoring systems on SSFFC Medical Products of the WHO, who presented a paper on monitoring of substandard and falsified medical products during the PV course, expresses his impression about the course and his visit to the country saying: “I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Eritrea and thankful for the hospitality.”

Apart for his appreciation to the overall efforts, Mr. Deats expressed his willingness to maintain contact with the Eritrean PV center.

What Dr. Raja Benkirane, Specialist in Toxicology and Pharmacology, said is a common impression shared by all experts who attended and presented various papers related to surveillance of the side effects of medicines. Her comments reflects a mix of traditional and professional assets of the country which she cherishes even after she left Eritrea.

“I was very happy to attend the course thank you for your hospitality, Eritreans are very sympathetic, and I like your dance.” Dr. Raja said.

The versatile experts in different medical professions were highly overwhelmed by the open discussion and unreserved sharing of experiences. Eugene Van Puijenbroek, Clinical Pharmacologist, Professor of PV as well as Head of the Science and Research Dept. of the Netherlands PV Center, said:

“I enjoyed being part of the course and was impressed by the efforts being made in making a pharmacovigilance a success in Eritrea.”

The way different courses or meetings were hosted in Eritrea is highly appreciated by various visitors. As other events hosted in Eritrea, the recent East African course on PV is indeed a success.

Mr. Jayesh Manharlal Pandit puts his remarks about the importance of the course saying:

“Congratulations for holding such as successful PV Training course and thank you for being such wonderful hosts. I am very happy to learn of the great progress made to establish an effective Pharmacovigilance system in Eritrea”.


The 2016 East African Advanced Course on Pharmacovigilance and Risk Management was conducted from April 10th -17th, hosting representatives from Burundi, Kenya, Morocco, Ghana, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Burundi, Nigeria, Cape Verde, Thailand, Switzerland, Netherlands, the UK, UAE, the U.S and several more.

Held in Asmara, Eritrea under the theme of “Developing Proactive Pharmacovigilance and Risk Management Strategies in East Africa.”

The course proceeded with a pre-course where both faculty and attendees sat in to hear about lessons learned in one another’s respective countries. With this element, the course was able to proceed with a greater understanding of the challenges that one another face and faculty members were able to respond in their presentations.

Professionals in their respective fields sharing from their expertise. Topics included: Communication, Integration of Pharmacovigilance (Pv) and Public Health Programs (PHPs), Signal Detection & Action, Risk Management, and Pharmacovigilance Methods, Adverse Drug Reactions (ADRs).