Promoting Rational Use of Medicines: Core Components - WHO Policy Perspectives on Medicines, No. 005, September 2002
(2002; 6 pages) [French] [Spanish] View the PDF document
Table of Contents
View the documentDefinition of rational use of medicines
View the documentThe problem of irrational use
View the documentAssessing the problem of irrational use
View the documentWorking towards rational use of medicines
Close this folderCore policies to promote more rational use of medicines
View the document1. A mandated multi-disciplinary national body to coordinate medicine use policies
View the document2. Clinical guidelines
View the document3. Essential medicines list based on treatments of choice
View the document4. Drugs and therapeutics committees in districts and hospitals
View the document5. Problem-based training in pharmacotherapy in undergraduate curricula
View the document6. Continuing in-service medical education as a licensure requirement
View the document7. Supervision, audit and feedback
View the document8. Independent medicine information
View the document9. Public education about medicines
View the document10. Avoidance of perverse financial incentives
View the document11. Appropriate and enforced regulation
View the document12. Sufficient government expenditure to ensure availability of medicines and staff
View the documentKey documents
View the documentContacts at WHO Headquarters

9. Public education about medicines

Without sufficient knowledge about the risks and benefits of using medicines and when and how to use them, people will often not get the expected clinical outcomes and may suffer adverse effects. This is true for prescribed medicines, as well as medicines used without the advice of health professionals. Governments have a responsibility to ensure both the quality of medicines and the quality of the information about medicines available to consumers. This will require:


• Ensuring that over-the-counter medicines are sold with adequate labelling and instructions that are accurate, legible, and easily understood by laypersons. The information should include the medicine name, indications, contra-indications, dosages, drug interactions, and warnings concerning unsafe use or storage.

• Monitoring and regulating advertising, which may adversely influence consumers as well as prescribers, and which may occur through television, radio, newspapers and the internet.

• Running targeted public education campaigns, which take into account cultural beliefs and the influence of social factors. Education about the use of medicines may be introduced into the health education component of school curricula or into adult education programmes, such as literacy courses.

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