Monitoring and evaluation are essential components of a national drug policy. Provisions for monitoring and evaluation need to be included in the policy itself. Adequate staff and an operating budget also need to be set aside. Key indicators for each component of the policy should be defined. These indicators can be measured to assess progress. Key aspects of a national drug policy include:
• explicit government commitment to the principles of monitoring and evaluation;
• baseline survey of the whole country carried out early in the implementation of the policy;
• monitoring of the pharmaceutical sector through regular indicator-based surveys;
• independent external evaluation of the impact of the policy on all sectors of the community and the economy, preferably every 2 to 3 years.
Box 4 The national medicines policy of Australia
In the 1990s the Government of Australia carried out several activities which could be considered as components of a national drug policy. Examples are:
• promoting equitable access to health care for its citizens through a carefully designed system of pharmaceutical benefits
• promoting the rational use of medicines through treatment guidelines (e.g. antibiotic guidelines), prescriber training programmes, public education
• promoting a viable national pharmaceutical industry
However, it was only in 2000 that these and other efforts were integrated into the National Medicines Policy in Australia - making Australia one of the first developed countries with an official comprehensive national drug policy.