Despite the best efforts of industry and regulatory authorities, the trust of society in the process of medicine development and communication of pharmaceutical risk has ebbed away. In response the US government has called for a culture of compliance while the EU regulators talk of a ‘culture of scientific excellence’. However, one of the fundamental problems hindering progress to rebuilding trust based on a pharmaceutical safety culture is the lack of agreement and transparency between all stakeholders as to what is meant by a ‘Safety of Medicines’. For that reason, we propose ‘Guiding Principles of Safety for Pharmaceuticals’ are developed analogous to the way that Chemical Safety has been tackled. A logical starting point would be to examine the Principles outlined by the US Institute of Medicine although we acknowledge that these Principles require further extensive debate and definition. Nevertheless, the Principles should take centre stage in the reform of pharmaceutical development required to restore societys trust.