The Pursuit of Responsible Use of Medicines: Sharing and Learning from Country Experiences. Technical Report Prepared for the Ministers Summit on the Benefits of Responsible Use of Medicines: Setting Policies for Better and Cost-effective Health Care
(2012; 78 pages)


In the last decades, medicines have had an unprecedented positive effect on health, leading to reduced mortality and disease burden, and consequently to an improved quality of life. At the same time, there is ample evidence that a large "missed potential" exists because of the way in which medicines are used: the right medicine does not always reach the right patient; approximately 50% of all patients fail to take their medicine correctly (1); and in many cases, the capability of the system is not sufficient to support the optimal use of medicines. There is much to be gained by using medicines more responsibly, primarily in terms of health gains; conversely, lost value has significant cost implications.

Given the importance of medicine use, the Ministry of Health of the Netherlands, in the context of the International Pharmaceutical Federation World Centennial Congress of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, is organizing a Ministers Summit in October 2012 with the theme "The benefits of responsible use of medicines". The purpose of this Summit is to explore solutions to improve patient outcomes and support sustainable and cost-effective health care.

From analyses conducted for the Summit, significant health-care costs can be avoided by using available medicines in a more appropriate way. For example, estimates that focus uniquely on reducing direct health-care costs such as hospitalization do not take into account other, indirect and avoidable costs to society, including loss of productivity. This World Health Organization (WHO) report is one of two commissioned by the Ministry of Health of the Netherlands to fuel discussions at the Summit; the other is from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. While WHO uses case histories to glean policy lessons from experiences in low- and middle-income countries, the IMS Institute focuses on cost quantification, case studies, and supporting evidence from low-, middle- and high-income countries. A briefing paper further describes the context of the Summit, summarizes the findings of both reports, and identifies a potential way forward for improved use of medicines.

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