Australia’s National Medicines Policy

In 1986 the 39th World Health Assembly adopted the “Revised Drug Strategy” produced by experts on the rational use of drugs a year earlier. Part of this strategy called on nations to implement a National Medicinal Drug Policy.

pills, tablets
A number of policies were developed and implemented culminating in the National Medicine Policy that was launched in 1999.

The aim of the policy is to “improve positive health outcomes for all Australians through their access to and wise use of medicines.”

The National Medicines Policy (NMP) is based on four central objectives:

* Timely access to the medicines that Australians need, at a cost individuals and the community can afford; (an example of this is Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme)

* Medicines meeting appropriate standards of quality, safety and efficacy;

* Quality use of medicines; (National Strategy for Quality Use of Medicines (QUM))

* Maintaining a responsible and viable medicines industry;

The National Medicines Policy is the overarching framework on how we handle medications in Australia. Within this broad and far reaching policy statement is a paragraph focusing on Indigenous Health

In particular, there are substantial access barriers and evidence of under use of medicines by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Partnership commitments to address the issues (eg Framework Agreements on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health) are required.

In June 2009 the NMP executive and committee hosted the inaugural Partnerships Forum with over 100 invited “stakeholders”. As well as an opportunity for the Executive and Committee to outline priorities and discuss the challenges and opportunities created it also sought stakeholders (I hate that word) input. Outcomes from the forum are to assist the the Executive and the Committee to identify future priorities which are then presented to the Minister for Health and Ageing who I suppose then does something with it.

Peppered throughout the document are references to the importance of access to medicines and the rational use of these medicines. Despite the Section 100 Medicine Supply Arrangements for Remote Area Aboriginal Health Services program allowing free supply of medications to remote communities An Indigenous Australian with a much higher disease burden still only receives 58% of the total PBS benefits paid be other Australian ($168.2 to $288.2)

I’ve been invited to the next forum (30th June 2010 in Sydney) as apparently I know a bit about Indigenous and Remote Health and access to medications. Hopefully I’ll be able to write something about it in July.

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