One of the most dynamic developments towards the elaboration of a comprehensive National Drug Policy to he found in the world today is in Australia. It started some 50 years ago when the Australian governments irrespective of what party was in power, began to allocate resources for the provision of medicinal drugs to the population as a conscious social policy. The decision in the 1950s to make the supply of a limited number of life-saving drugs available free of charge to all citizens was another cornerstone in the formulation of a comprehensive policy. Another important building block was the price control mechanism established by the government. This has resulted in very low drug prices during the past few decades, at the level of 60 per cent of the EU prices.
An important achievement on the part of the government has also been its success in reaching and maintaining high standard in pharmaceuticals by subsidising access to a broad range of highquality products and pushing less serious manufacturers to the outskirts of the market. The ongoing and productive dialogue between the pharmaceutical industry and the government is a feature worth noting on the Australian scene. All the actors in the field of the Australian drug policy participate in this dialogue which is kept very open and frank. But one important problem area has not yet been properly dealt with, namely the rational use of drugs. It is quite clear that more conventional approaches through "objective information" and "therapeutic guidelines" used alone will not be sufficient. They have to be re-examined and supplemented by creative educational programmes designed to meet in a flexible way the needs of different groups in society with diverse attitudes to medicines and health in general.
This comprehensive study of Australia’s National Drug Policy, which depicts today’s situation against the broad background of Australia's social history, is written by Mary Murray, who has held a central position in the work f o r the development of this policy. Thus, in the period 1991-94 she chaired a National Expert Advisory Committee for the Minister of Health, the PHARM Committee, which has developed policy and implemented strategies to optimise health outcomes through the Quality Use of Medicines. With her background in pharmacy and hospital clinical pharmacy and through her experience in drug information services, Mary Murray is playing an important role in developing educational programmes in her field whether targeted at particular professionals, consumer groups or the community at large.