For the safe, effective and prudent use of essential drugs, relevant and reliable drug information should be available.
Health care professionals should receive education about the use of drugs not only during their initial professional training but also throughout their professional careers. The more highly trained individuals should be encouraged to assume a responsibility to educate those with less training. Pharmacists and other health care workers responsible for dispensing drugs should accept every opportunity to inform consumers about the rational use of these products, including those for self-medication, at the time they are dispensed.
The Committee recommended that comprehensive educational programmes for health care professionals include:
• diagnostic and therapeutic guidelines for common conditions and for uncommon conditions recognized as important, such as poisoning;
• training in prescribing skills (37);
• accurate and understandable drug information and information on all aspects of medical care in which they are involved;
• information about patterns of disease in the community, especially prevailing sensitivity patterns, to aid in the selection of antimicrobial drugs.
Governments, universities and professional associations have a major responsibility to collaborate on improving undergraduate, postgraduate and continuing education in clinical pharmacology, therapeutics and drug information issues.
Appropriate drug information that is well presented is cost-effective in that it ensures that drugs are used properly and decreases inappropriate drug use; drug information activities should be financed from the national budget for the provision of drugs.
Drug information sheets
The following is an example of a format for supplying information to prescribers to facilitate the safe and effective use of drugs. The content should be adjusted to the needs, knowledge and responsibilities of the prescriber.
1. The International Nonproprietary Name (INN) of each active sub-stance. The need to identify each pharmaceutical substance by a unique, globally recognized generic name is of critical importance in facilitating communication as well as in the labelling and advertising of medicinal products in international commerce.
2. Pharmacological data: a brief description of pharmacological properties and mechanism of action.
3. Clinical information:
(a) Indications: whenever appropriate, simple diagnostic criteria should be provided.
(b) Dosage regimen and relevant pharmacokinetic data:
• average and range for adults and children;
• dosing interval;
• average duration of treatment;
• special situations, e.g. renal, hepatic, cardiac or nutritional insufficiencies that require either an increased or a reduced dosage.
(d) Precautions and warnings (reference to pregnancy, lactation, etc.).
(e) Adverse effects (quantify by category, if possible).
(f) Drug interactions (include only if clinically relevant; drugs used for self-medication should be included).
• brief clinical description of symptoms;
• non-drug treatment and supportive therapy;
• specific antidotes.
4. Pharmaceutical information:
(a) Dosage forms.
(b) Strength of dosage form.
(c) Storage conditions and shelf-life (expiry date).
The Committee also recognized the need for appropriate drug information sheets for consumers.