Quality use of medicines

The Editorial Executive Committee welcomes letters, which should be less than 250 words. Before a decision to publish is made, letters which refer to a published article may be sent to the author for a response. Any letter may be sent to an expert for comment. When letters are published, they are usually accompanied in the same issue by their responses or comments. The Committee screens out discourteous, inaccurate or libellous statements. The letters are sub-edited before publication. Authors are required to declare any conflicts of interest. The Committee's decision on publication is final.

Editor, – I was interested to read Associate Professor R. Moulds' editorial 'Quality use of medicines - where to next' (Aust Prescr 1998;21:58-9) about future directions in the quality use of medicines in Australia.

The paper commenced with information about a symposium held during the ASCEPT meeting in December 1997, and then commented upon the future place in Australia of Australian Prescriber, the Therapeutic Guidelines and the Australian Medicines Handbook and their possible 'coming together' in an electronic version.

Although it is reasonably apparent that Associate Professor Moulds is a member of the Executive Editorial Board of Australian Prescriber, I suggest that the editorial should have also noted that he is a member of the Management Committee of the Australian Medicines Handbook and Chairman of the writing committees of several of the Therapeutic Guidelines.

It is also unfortunate that it was unclear in the editorial whether these particular comments were the views of the author or reflected comments emerging from the symposium.

I suggest that any association of authors with the topics upon which they are commenting should be more clearly identified in future, to avoid allegations of conflict of interest, as they are in peer-reviewed journals.

This issue of Australian Prescriber also contained a presumably invited article by a U.K. clinician titled 'When to use a new drug' (Aust Prescr 1998;21:67-9). It advises readers that 'New alternatives to existing treatments should be used only if these bring additional benefits commensurate with their cost'. This is followed by a self-test question about the impact of pharmaceutical industry marketing strategies.

It seems that quite a few articles recently published in Australian Prescriber have been somewhat philosophical and have commented on the approach that 'should' be adopted in medical practice in Australia.

Australian Prescriber terms itself 'an independent review'. Perhaps the nature of that 'independence' needs to be more transparent.

Janice E. Hirshorn
Director, Policy and Strategy Development
Australian Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association
North Sydney, N.S.W.

Editor's note:
Australian Prescriber has a policy for authors to declare all conflicts of interest. Editorials are peer-reviewed before publication in the same way as articles.