Policy update

It’s time to modernise and reboot Australia’s 20-year-old National Medicines Policy

Pharmacy academics say it’s time to reboot Australia’s National Medicines Policy to reflect changes in healthcare, technology and community expectations.

The NMP was launched in 1999, and is now in need of an overhaul, said Professor Andrew McLachlan and Professor Parisa Aslani.   

“Since the Policy was first launched, Australia has seen significant changes in healthcare systems, medicines subsidies, health services remuneration, digital technologies and the pharmaceutical industry,” they wrote in the latest edition of Australian Prescriber.

“Medicines themselves have also changed, as have consumers’ expectations. To respond to these changes, the National Medicines Policy needs to be updated with a greater focus on implementing and measuring outcomes”.

The call for change backed those made previously by academics, as well as by Pharmaceutical Society of Australia National President, A/Prof Chris Freeman.

Professor Freeman last year argued: “it is also time to review the National Medicines Policy and make sure it reflects contemporary health care needs and practices. Australia’s National Medicine Policy is now 20 years old and needs a review and refresh as previously announced by the Minister for Health”.

His comments came after State and Federal Health Ministers agreed to make the Quality Use of Medicines and Medicines Safety the 10th National Health Priority Area.

In the latest article, Professor McLachlan, Dean of Pharmacy at the University of Sydney, and Professor Aslani, Professor, Medicines Use Optimisation, say “planning a reboot should not only consider the evolution of the National Medicines Policy to better reflect the current environment, but also how it can be reviewed at more timely intervals.

“This is important as new therapies emerge that create new challenges and opportunities to improve health care, or indeed cause harm.”

Among the items they listed as being “key considerations” for the National Medicines Policy 2.0 are:

  • Patient-centred focus – particularly of vulnerable people – the frail elderly, indigenous Australians, migrants and refugees and those living with mental illness, disability or with chronic ill health;
  • Medication safety – aligning with the WHO Global Patient Safety Challenge, focusing on high-risk medicines and situations, transitions of care and polypharmacy;
  • Medicines cost and access – focusing on affordable medicines for governments and consumers, equitable access to expensive and off-label medicines between jurisdictions and medicine supply and shortage;
  • Digital health – connected data repositories and management systems for health data, and incorporation of key initiatives such as My Health Record, electronic medication management and real-time monitoring;
  • Stakeholder partnership and collaboration – with closer partnerships between stakeholders to support policy implementation; 
  • Legislation – an up-to-date regulatory framework to “support the increasing complexity of therapeutic interventions and devices” was essential for public safety, they said.

“The last two decades have seen substantial changes in people’s expectations, as well as changes in
healthcare and information systems, medicines themselves (e.g. biologicals and biosimilars, and
precision medicine), medicines subsidies and health services remuneration, digital technologies, and
the pharmaceutical industry,” the authors said.

“These changes have challenged the very foundations of the National Medicines Policy”.

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1 Comment

  1. Andrew Tooms

    Part of the modernisation should be a national poisons law – I know I keep on about this, but it really does need doing.

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