Millennium gift will redefine ranks of pharmacoepidemiologists

Spring 2013 ]

|Phar • ma • co •|epi • demi • ologist:

1: A public health specialist who determines the effectiveness and safety of drugs, vaccines or medical devices by studying their effects in populations.
2: A practitioner in this fast-growing public health field for which demand has outstripped expertise.

Fortunately, a new $375,000, five-year gift from Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company will rewrite that definition, launching a fellowship to support pharmacoepidemiology students at Harvard School of Public Health. Over the long term, this support–which will help HSPH train a new generation of professionals who will be able to contribute to crucial public health decisions–could translate into improved health outcomes for millions of people, according to Sonia Hernández-Díaz, HSPH associate professor of epidemiology and director of the pharmacoepidemiology program.

“The tools of pharmacoepidemiology are a vital complement to the extensive testing that drugs receive before they reach the broader public, because they identify effects that become more apparent in large populations than in clinical trials,” Hernández-Díaz explains. “With the generous unrestricted support of private donors like Millennium, the program can equip future leaders with the knowledge and skills they need to examine across populations the safety, effectiveness and utilization of drugs, vaccines, medical devices, and procedures.”

She adds, “Funding is crucial for students these days. Our department has lost top candidates in the past because other universities were offering more attractive financial packages. This gift will increase the number of top candidates we can attract and retain in the program.”

“Pharmacoepidemiology is critical for drug development,” notes Jane Porter, senior director of epidemiology at Millennium. “Regulatory agencies are increasingly requiring pharmaceutical companies to provide epidemiologic information and conduct epidemiologic postmarketing studies. It is important to Millennium and other drug companies to have access to current research and thinking in evaluating the safety of our products–and HSPH has a reputation for leadership and excellence in pharmacoepidemiology.”

The Millennium gift will also fund annual meetings between HSPH pharmacoepidemiology students and Millennium scientists. Says Porter, “We hope to have a two-way exchange of ideas, so that there is a mutual understanding of issues and challenges.”

Karen Feldscher