Good prescribing: lifetime skills
It is increasingly recognised that classical medical education concentrates too much on transferring a growing quantity of facts, rather than on teaching the student techniques of problem-solving. When "facts" rather than "skills" are the focus, much is rapidly forgotten once examinations are over. Furthermore, the scientific validity of such "knowledge" dates rapidly - estimated by some studies to have a half-life of just five years. The teaching of pharmacology and therapeutics is no exception. In many medical schools it is characterised by instilling knowledge about drugs rather than providing students with lifetime prescribing skills.
Teaching medical students and doctors to prescribe rationally has a strong impact on the quality of future health care. This is true also in situations where doctors are not the only prescribers, as their example has a strong influence on other health workers and on the perceived value of specific treatments within the community. For this reason, the Action Programme on Essential Drugs is committed to the development and support of new approaches to training, and works with partners in many parts of the world to promote innovative training tools and strategies. This issue looks at some of the educational programmes and approaches that will provide students with lifetime prescribing skills and established practitioners with the means to enhance their clinical practice.