Cooperation is possible at national, regional and international levels. At a national level, it is important to build good relationships with the national authority dealing with drug registration, licensing and quality control. In many countries this is a separate agency or department within the Ministry of Health. These institutions can serve as a great source of information and expertise on pharmaceuticals, particularly on new drugs.
Collaboration with universities is important in that it makes use of existing technical expertise and resources. A number of drug bulletins are affiliated to universities. This enables them to convey the ideas presented in their articles to a wider readership, including students of medicine, nursing and public health. Other groups of potential partners at the national level include professional, medical and pharmacists' associations and societies. They can provide valuable advice about therapeutic approaches and treatment. Collaboration with professional societies also helps to build a bulletin’s credibility among health professionals.
For drug bulletins mainly targeting health professionals, it is important to recognise partners among other groups concerned about health issues, like women's, patients’ and consumers’ groups. This kind of partnership is mutually beneficial because these groups can provide needed expertise on the experiences of patients and the types of treatment outcomes they consider important. Very often they also need the expertise of a drug bulletin’s editorial team and associated health professionals for organizing advocacy work or campaigns, or developing information materials for the general public.
Partnership with other newsletters and journals on medicine or health issues, especially other drug bulletins published in the same country or in the same language, can help in the choice of the topics for articles and in initiating discussions about specific health issues or therapeutic practices.
At a regional level, neighbouring countries may face similar cultural, political and economic conditions. Similarities can also be found in health issues and health policy, such as common causes of morbidity and mortality, similar approaches to treatment and the use of drugs, and regional trends to harmonise the process of drug registration. All of these factors make collaboration among drug bulletins at the regional level valuable and important. Regional partnerships not only strengthen the professional capacity of bulletins, they can help increase the bulletin’s influence at a national level. It is also helpful to meet colleagues regularly and discuss ways of solving problems and improving the quality of publications. Bulletins operating within smaller countries may want to rotate editorial responsibilities at a regional level.
The organization of international meetings involves a great deal of work and financing. Regional seminars and workshops serve a similar purpose, but cost less and are more manageable. Box 13.1 lists some of the meetings that have been organized by ISDB and individual bulletins over the years. Those who cannot attend such meetings can still gain much from contact with colleagues via e-mail.
International cooperation varies from partnership with other drug bulletins through ISDB, to collaboration with non-governmental organizations and networks working on health-related problems, to support from international agencies like WHO, other UN agencies and governmental development agencies. WHO’s Essential Drugs and Medicines Policy Department (renamed Medicines Policy and Standards in December 2004) has supported drug bulletins in developing and developed countries for many years, encouraging the establishment of new bulletins and strengthening existing ones.
Box 13.1 Some past regional meetings for bulletins
• ISDB International seminar on strategies and efficacy of drug information - (Reggio Emilia, Italy). April 1988. Supported by Farmacie Comunali Riunite;
• ISDB Summer School (Reggio Emilia, Italy). June 1991. Organized by the Italian bulletins;
• Meeting on drug information (Madrid, Spain). October 1991. Organized by the Spanish Ministry of Health, WHO Regional Office for Europe and ISDB;
• ISDB Summer school (Algiers, Algeria). April 1992. Supported by the Algerian National Institute of Public Health, the German Development Aid Foundation, the Italian Aid Agency, Health Action International, Pharmaciens sans Frontières, Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin and la revue Prescrire;
• ISDB Summer School (Yokohama, Japan). July 1992. Organized by the Japanese bulletins, with support of the WHO Action Programme on Essential Drugs;
• Workshops of the ISDB General Assembly (Granada, Spain). September 1996. Supported by the Public Health School of Andalucia, WHO Action Programme on Essential Drugs, WHO Regional Office for Europe, Health Action International and individual bulletins;
• ISDB-European Medicines Agency (EMEA) Joint Workshop on EMEA information provision and policy and the needs of independent bulletins (London, UK). June 1998. Organized by ISDB and the EMEA and individual bulletins;
• ISDB Central and Eastern European Regional Meeting (Riga, Latvia). January 1998. Organized by Cito! and ISDB. Supported by ISDB and WHO Europe.
• ISDB European workshop on pharmacovigilance (Berlin, Germany). November 2003. Organized by ISDB and the German bulletins. Supported by WHO.
• ISDB South-East Asia Regional Meeting (Kathmandu, Nepal). February 2004. Organized by Drug Bulletin Nepal and ISDB. Supported by ISDB and WHO, including the WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia.