Key policy issues
The rational use of drugs means that patients receive medicines appropriate to their clinical needs, in doses that meet their individual requirements, for an adequate period of time, and at the lowest cost to them and their community. Irrational drug use by prescribers and consumers is a very complex problem, and calls for the implementation of many different interventions at the same time. Efforts to promote rational drug use should also cover the use of traditional and herbal medicines. Key policy issues are:
• development of evidence-based clinical guidelines, as the basis for training, prescribing, drug utilization review, drug supply and drug reimbursement;
• establishment and support of drugs and therapeutics committees;
• promotion of the concepts of essential drugs, rational drug use and generic prescribing in basic and in-service training of health professionals;
• the need and potential for training of informal drug sellers;
• continuing education and independent, unbiased drug information;
• consumer education, and ways to deliver it;
• financial incentives to promote rational drug use;
• regulatory and managerial strategies to promote rational drug use.
Rational drug use requires that patients receive medications appropriate to their clinical needs, in doses that meet their individual requirements, for an adequate period of time, and at the lowest possible cost to them and their community. Rational drug use promotes quality of care and cost-effective therapy. It helps to ensure that drugs are used only when they are needed, and that people understand what the medicines are for and how to use them.
Policies to promote rational drug use need to address the prescribers, dispensers and consumers of drugs as well as manufacturers and sellers, and traditional healers. All these actors have an important influence on how drugs are used. A variety of strategies and interventions are needed to influence drug use.