A bulletin aimed at improving prescribing will probably be read by doctors, but may also interest pharmacists and nurses. Knowing your bulletin’s target audience is very important: it should determine how the bulletin is presented. A bulletin for village health workers will differ greatly from a bulletin aimed at hospital doctors, general practitioners or pharmacists.
You first need to ask who needs your drug information. You then have to consider who wants it. When starting a bulletin it is often wise to send it to people who value the information. Later, you can try and involve the people who do not understand the point of a bulletin. Often the people who think they already know everything are the ones who most need to read a drug bulletin!
In some countries, a useful strategy is to identify opinion leaders and seek their support for your bulletin. If reading a bulletin is seen to be part of being a good health professional your readership will soon grow. Professional bodies, such as medical or pharmaceutical associations, can also be important allies. Some may, for example, be able to distribute a bulletin to their members. In other countries, when these bodies and opinion leaders have no credibility, their support should be avoided. Finally, pressure from consumers can help to motivate health professionals to search for objective information, and so widen support for a bulletin.
Your readership will be determined largely by how the bulletin is distributed. Will it be distributed to all health workers, only to particular professional groups, or will it be available only by subscription?
Case study: Folia Pharmacotherapeutica, Belgium
Folia Pharmacotherapeutica is a monthly drug bulletin, which has been sent free of charge to all Belgian licensed physicians, pharmacists and dentists since 1975. The circulation is about 60,000. Present and past (since 1999) issues are also available on the web site. The bulletin is edited by the Belgian Centre for Pharmacotherapeutic Information (BCFI in Flemish; CBIP in French) which is an independent organization, subsidised by the Belgian Ministry of Health.
Folia Pharmacotherapeutica contains summaries of important articles about pharmacotherapy which have appeared in the international literature. Much attention is given to the evidence base of the information but the bulletin tries to reconcile the requirements of evidence with the need to be of practical use for the busy health professional, which is far from easy. In each monthly issue there is also a communication from the Belgian Centre for Pharmacovigilance. From a recent survey of the readers it appears that the Folia are well read and appreciated by health professionals.
The bulletin is put together by an editorial team (clinical pharmacologists, pharmacists, general practitioners), with the help of a network of general practitioners, specialists and practicing pharmacists. All texts are seen by the members of the editorial team, but also by specialists in the subject matter. The Belgian Centre for Pharmacotherapeutic Information is responsible for a number of other initiatives as well: an annual drug formulary, leaflets about new chemical entities appearing on the market, pharmaco-economic assessment and brochures about important therapeutic topics. It is thought that the existence of these other sources of information enhances the impact of our monthly bulletin.
Contributed by Marc Bogaert, Folia Pharmacotherapeutica, Belgium.