Twenty years too old?

time for change clock

With increasing changes to the way medicines are prescribed, and “alarming” levels of medicine-related harm, is there a need to update our drugs policy?

Researchers have called for an update of Australia’s 20-year-old National Medicines Policy, which they describe as “outdated and in need of review”.

The policy, which was finalised in 1999, has been an effective framework with respect to the quality use of medicines in Australia, write Associate Professor Orin Chisholm and Dr Brendan Shaw from UNSW in the MJA this week.

However there has been no comprehensive review of the policy since then, they say.

Meanwhile there have been many changes in the two decades that have passed.

“In 1999, the top five medicines in Australia’s PBS by cost were two statins, an antipsychotic and two drugs for the treatment of peptic ulcers,” write A/Prof Chisholm and Dr Shaw.

“At this time, the human genome had not yet been sequenced, smartphones were not ubiquitous, social media did not exist, and there was concern in Australia that the cost of the PBS was unsustainable.”

The most expensive medicines now are those for hepatitis C and there is an increasing number of personalised biological therapies.

There have also been changed in the way medicines are prescribed and dispensed.

“Pharmacists, dentists and nurses are increasingly prescribing and administering certain prescription medicines,” say the researchers.

“The way that patients receive their medicines has evolved in ways not foreseen in 1999.”

A review is “overdue and could not be timelier with its 20th anniversary fast approaching,” they conclude.

PSA has agreed with the premise that a review is needed to create a contemporary policy around medicine use to address the “alarming” issue of medicine harm.

“The National Medicines Policy has served us well, an example of well co-designed policy that has stood the test of time. But, now is the time for refresh and renewal to deal with access, safety and affordability,” said PSA CEO Shane Jackson.

Read the MJA article here

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