National drug and therapeutic information documents which include:
• Essential drugs lists, which list those drugs that are considered basic and indispensable for treating commonly occurring conditions;
• Standard treatment guidelines, which give recommended treatment regimes for treating these conditions;
• National formularies, which provide prescribing and dispensing information for each of the drugs on the essential drugs list; and
• Patient management guidelines, which give advice on diagnosis, history-taking, patient examination and other aspects of patient management;
are vital reference texts for any country or health institution striving to rationalise the treatment of diseases and utilisation of the drugs needed.
Such rationalisation is obligatory if optimum use is to be made of the scarce resources, in terms of health workers, drugs and medical supplies, budget and consultation time, of many countries, particularly in less developed parts of the world.
The development of national drug and therapeutics documents is highly recommended as it provides several significant advantages over texts available from elsewhere. These include:
• national documents can be made much more appropriate and relevant for use within the locally prevailing clinical and therapeutic practices;
• involvement of national experts in reaching a broad consensus, and in production of the texts, gives the documents national credibility and enhances the likelihood of them being widely adopted and used.
This report describes in detail the process of production of one such text, the Malawi Standard Treatment Guidelines (MSTG). Although this is only one kind of drug and therapeutics information publication, and was produced for use in a specific country, many of the steps followed, experience gained, problems faced and lessons learned in the process are applicable to production of similar documents in any (developing) country. Important notes on lessons learned during production of the MSTG are given in the text in the form of Tips.