New collaboration to shed light on causation in pharmacovigilance

Research / 01 May 2019

UMC’s director Marie Lindquist with CAPS researchers, Rani Lill Anjum and Elena Rocca. Photo: UMC.

One of the key dictums of science is that correlation is not causation. But in pharmacovigilance, understanding what does constitute causation can have literally life-or-death consequences.

Now, in a new effort to improve that understanding, UMC has entered a collaboration with Centre for Applied Philosophy of Science at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU CAPS). The project, CauseHealth Pharmacovigilance, will investigate causation, evidence, and complexity in medicines safety.

Led by CAPS researchers Rani Lill Anjum and Elena Rocca, along with UMC’s director Marie Lindquist, former director Ralph Edwards and other UMC researchers, CauseHealth Pharmacovigilance is developing a new approach to patient safety based on the concept of “dispositionalism”, which takes into account the complex and dynamic relationships which make up the world.

“Each of us has a unique set of dispositions, which affect the way we react to medicines. The challenge is not only to look at what happens at the population level, but to identify the critical factors that determine when and how a medicine can be used safely by a particular individual,” said Lindquist.

“Pharmacovigilance is a perfect case of causal evidencing when statistical knowledge is limited. This makes it an interesting starting point for looking into how individual dispositions contribute to tease out previously hidden dispositions of the drug,” said Dr Anjum.

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