The Australian National Medicines Policy embodies four tenets: availability, quality, safety and efficacy of medicines; timely access to affordable medicines; quality use of medicines (QUM); and a responsible and viable medicines industry. The promotion of QUM requires a multidisciplinary approach, including contributions from government, the pharmaceutical industry, health professionals, consumers and academia. However, there are significant tensions and unintended effects associated with the multidisciplinary approach, especially with the relationships between prescribers and dispensers of medicines.
The general practitioner and the pharmacist share a common ancestor — the apothecary. The separation of dispensing from prescribing, which began in medieval Europe and 19th century England, reframed and confined the patient–doctor relationship to one of diagnosis, prescription and non-drug management. The role of pharmacists was limited to dispensing, though the present trend is for their responsibilities to be widened. Historical antecedents, the contribution of an increasing number of actors to the costs of health care, universal health insurance and an evolving regulatory framework, are among the factors influencing doctor–pharmacist relations.
The prescribing and dispensing of medicines must be guided by an ethical clinical governance structure encompassing health professionals, regulators, the pharmaceutical industry and consumers. There must be close monitoring of safety and effectiveness, and promotion of quality use of medicines and improved patient outcomes. Ongoing training and professional development, within and across professional boundaries, is essential to support harmonious and cost-effective inter-professional practice. The approach must be "apothecarial" with complementary roles and responsibilities for the prescriber and dispenser within the patient–clinician therapeutic relationship, and not adversarial.
The Australian national medicines policy, safety, quality, pharmacists, doctor, apothecary