Drug bulletins have special characteristics: independence is a fundamental basis for their work and they provide information with a practical orientation. These characteristics help practitioners make rational decisions about treatments and also make drug bulletins a fundamental tool for promoting their rational use.
Producing a drug bulletin involves many challenges. These include starting and sustaining a publication without resources from drug companies, working in isolation, and perhaps being a lone voice in promoting rational prescribing of medicines.
Until now, there has been little written information about the work of drug bulletins and few opportunities for people doing this work to share experiences. This manual helps to rectify that situation. It is a practical tool, drawing from the experience of people who produce independent drug bulletins. The manual identifies some of the choices that face those involved in bulletins, describes the many ways to set up and run a drug bulletin, provides examples from a variety of bulletins in different parts of the world, gives tips and warns of common pitfalls. As well as being useful for people taking the first steps towards producing a bulletin, the manual contains a wealth of information for those involved with established bulletins.
After the introductory section, a chapter on the rational use of medicines explores the reasons why making rational choices can be problematical. It also describes how the special characteristics of drug bulletins help practitioners make rational decisions and also make bulletins a fundamental tool for promoting rational use of medicines.
The following chapters focus on what makes a bulletin independent, how to define the aims, target and type of bulletin and how to plan resources to start or sustain a bulletin. Chapters 6 and 7 look at planning, production and the editorial process. There is detailed discussion about books and journals that are useful to drug bulletins and suggestions of key references for bulletins with limited finances.
Chapter 8 outlines the principles of evaluating a new drug. The chapter is mainly intended for editors of established bulletins looking to develop their working practices or evaluating medicines that are new in their country. An annexe to the chapter provides more information on assessing the risk of harm, including assessing causation and using animal data.
Design, production and distribution issues are critical to bulletins' success and are addressed in depth by the authors. Establishing a sound organizational structure and considering possible legal issues are important, but sometimes overlooked, areas on which the manual also provides information and advice. Chapter 12 outlines the benefits and difficulties of undertaking evaluation of a bulletin - an essential component of establishing and maintaining its quality and usefulness. Three approaches are discussed - audit, feedback and impact assessment.
The importance of supportive partners at national, regional and international levels is highlighted in Chapter 13. Regardless of its stage of development, every bulletin can gain strength through the support of other similar publications, and the possibilities for twinning arrangements, joint training sessions and collaborative research are discussed here.
Finally, the manual underscores the importance of good record keeping, to ensure that information can be readily retrieved when needed. Details are given of what to keep and record, how to create an organizational memory and starting an archive.
The manual is an invaluable guide for:
• anyone thinking of starting a drug bulletin.
• all those running an established drug bulletin.
It will also interest:
• health professionals, including doctors and pharmacists, who contribute to the work of drug bulletins and are their primary users;
• organizations which sponsor or fund a drug bulletin, such as public and private health maintenance organizations;
• organizations that can make use of drug bulletins’ work, for example, national and international regulatory agencies and health insurance organizations;
• patients and members of the public with a particular interest in health issues, especially in the rational use of medicines.
The manual is a tool-book not a rule-book, and ISDB and WHO urge all readers to provide their feedback on the form included at the end of the manual. The information, opinions and ideas received will be of great value when updating the manual.