NPS MedicineWise (NPS) was formed in 1998 following the 1997–98 Federal Budget announcement about the establishment of a national organisation to undertake work in the quality use of medicines (QUM). Our underlying philosophy is to give health professionals and consumers access to information and other supports for good prescribing and decisions about medicines and medical test use.
We are an independent organisation whose programs are funded by the Department of Health.
We build on the foundations laid by the past work in QUM, and draw together the expertise of all those involved in medicines use. We are an independent public company operating within the framework of the National Medicines Policy (NMP). Our members include government and peak medical, pharmacy, consumer, nursing, pharmaceutical industry and hospital organisations.
Medicines use is the most common health-related action taken by Australians and for many, the only action taken. Medicines, if used correctly, can significantly improve levels of health. However, despite the benefits, medicine use is not without risks. There are also potential harms and negative consequences including treatment failure, adverse effects, economic waste and ecological change (for example, resistance to antibiotics).
Several key factors are recognised as influencing the potential of medicines to optimise health outcomes (and minimise health harms) for Australians, and represent the key objectives of Australia’s National Medicines Policy (NMP, 2000):
- Timely access to the medicines that Australians need, at a cost that individuals and the community can afford.
- Medicines meeting appropriate standards of quality, safety and efficacy.
- Quality use of medicines.
- Maintaining a responsible and viable medicines industry.
QUM is one of four arms of the National Medicines Policy. It is defined as:
- judicious use (selecting management options wisely). Medicines, whether prescribed, recommended and/or self-selected should be used only when appropriate, with non-medicinal alternatives considered as needed
- appropriate use (choosing suitable medicines if a medicine is considered necessary). Choosing the most appropriate medicine, taking into account factors such as the clinical condition being treated, the potential risks and benefits of treatment, dosage, length of treatment and costs
- safe use (using medicines safely and effectively to get the best possible results). Misuse, including overuse and underuse, should be minimised
- efficacious use. The medicines must achieve the goals of therapy by delivering beneficial changes in actual health outcomes.
A national policy on QUM was published in 1992 and seeks to create partnerships and cooperation between all groups whose activities influence medicine use and to promote the health care team, with the consumer as an active partner. It also seeks to enable visible, effective and sustainable educational strategies that promote the quality use of medicines while developing a supportive environment.
Our organisation was established by the federal government as the first national organisation to undertake work in QUM. Prior to our establishment there was no mechanism for drawing together and building on the valuable QUM work that had been done in the past.