Medication-related harm has been estimated to be responsible for 2-3 per cent of all Australian hospital admissions, with this figure rising substantially in people aged over 65 years. Harm from adverse medication events can range from relatively minor irritations to more serious illness, disability and even death.
Quality use of medicines (QUM) strives to reduce preventable harm and improve health outcomes through:
- judicious selection of medicines, recognising that there may be non-medicinal alternatives
- when prescribing or recommending a medicine, taking into account such factors as the clinical condition being treated, risks and benefits of treatment, dosage, duration of therapy, cost and the needs and preferences of the individual being treated
- safety of use - assessing and minimising the possibilities for overuse and underuse
- efficacy - the medicines used must achieve the desired improvement in health outcomes.
QUM policy and strategy
Australia has a well-established national medicines policy, which includes QUM as one of its four central objectives. The policy advocates a partnership approach and recognises that governments, health professionals and providers, consumers and their carers have a shared responsibility in medication safety.
The concept of partnership in QUM is further articulated in the National strategy for quality use of medicines objectives regarding improved QUM and a greater commitment to QUM by consumers, healthcare practitioners, health providers and health educators.