Mapping the use and side effects of pharmaceuticals

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The development of many new drugs is positive – but also increases the need for research on how they are used and what side effects they may have. Helle Kieler is conducting research into this field, pharmacoepidemiology, and is particularly interested in the effects on mother and child of treatment during pregnancy.

Helle Kieler. Foto: Creo Media Group.Helle Kieler is looking at how pharmaceuticals are used in society, and their consequences particularly in the form of side effects. She is the Head of the Centre for Pharmacoepidemiology at KI which not only conducts research but is also a National Centre of Expertise for questions relating to pharmacoepidemiology. 

“The areas we are targeting include psychiatry, cardiovascular disease, chronic inflammatory diseases and cancer,” Kieler says. “These are diseases that affect many people and for some time now these areas have been characterised by rapid drug deve¬lopment; we need to know more about the effects of these new medicines that are now being used.” 

Helle Kieler’s special interest lies in reproductive pharmaco-epidemiology, which means the effects on mother and child of having – or refraining from having – treatment in connection with pregnancy and birth. For example, she has investigated the effect of the antidepressant SSRI drug during pregnancy. 

“We could show that there are certain excess risks for the child, but that they are much lower than previously claimed,” she says. “Now we are preparing a long-term follow-up of the children as well as the mothers who were taking antidepressants.” 

Recently, Kieler’s group also showed that the influenza treat¬ment, Tamiflu, did not pose risks for the child during pregnancy. 

In order to have large cohorts and high quality results, much of Kieler’s research is conducted as international collaborations – in particular within the framework of the Nordic network NorPEN, the Nordic Pharmacoepidemiological Network.

Helle Kieler 

Professor of Pharmacoepidemiology at the Department of Medicine, Solna and the Department of Laboratory Medicine

Helle Kieler was born in Copenhagen in 1956, and studied medicine at Copenhagen University, graduating in 1982. She specialised in Obstetrics and Gynaecology in 1990, and as a clinician has primarily worked at Falu Hospital and Uppsala Academic University Hospital. 

Kieler was awarded a doctorate from Uppsala University in 1997 for her work on the effects and side effects of ultrasound during pregnancy. She was a postdoctorate at KI from 2001 to 2004 and was employed by the Swedish Medical Products Agency from 2001 to 2006. Since 2006 she has headed the Centre for Psychopharma¬cology at KI.  Helle Kieler was appointed Professor of Pharmacoepidemiology at Karolinska Institutet on 1 December 2016.

Text: Anders Nilsson, translated from Swedish, first published in “From Cell to Society” 2017.

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