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- Issue 81: April 2009
- Issue 80: March 2009
- Issue 79: February 2009
- Issue 78: December 2008
- Issue 77: November 2008
- Issue 76: October 2008
- Issue 75: September 2008
- Issue 74: August 2008
- Issue 73: July 2008
- Issue 72: June 2008

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National Prescribing Service Press Releases

Katie Butt
From a Good Prescribing Perspective

Issue 72: June 2008
Page: 1 of 1 Author's Profile | Send to a Friend | Printer Version

The National Prescribing Service (NPS)is a valued independent resource for good and unbiased prescribing information and education.
Given the marketing pressures applied by global drug companies, Australia is blessed to have such a resource.
Pharmacists are moving closer to a prescribing role within the health system and it is appropriate that i2P promote the message of the NPS.
This Month:

 * Consumers’ Health And Wellbeing Always Top Priority in QUM, NPS Reminds All

 *Sydney Uni student wins the weigh-in for quality medicines use

 * Quality medicines use a Vital Health topic 

  * Old drugs, new tricks – pharmacy magazine column wins national award

 * War veterans’ program wins national award for improving health

* Aboriginal health workers central to Award winning project

* Keep an eye on quit-smoking patients using varenicline
_____________________________________________________________________________

Consumers’ Health And Wellbeing Always Top Priority in QUM, NPS Reminds All

Pharmacists are urged to keep consumers’ health and wellbeing and Quality Use of Medicines (QUM) in the front of their minds while pharmacies adjust to the changes resulting from implementation of the PBS reform package.

CEO National Prescribing Service Limited (NPS) Dr Lynn Weekes emphasises that “brand switching should occur only when it is safe and appropriate”.

Only medicines that have been proven to be bioequivalent can substitute for one another. Dr Weekes reinforced best pharmacy practice, which is to offer the same brand when filling repeats. If a decision is made to use a particular brand of medicine, it is best practice to ensure that the same brand is offered each time that particular medicine is required.

“The decision to use a generic medicine should ideally be made when treatment begins. Consider the comparative cost of and patient preference for particular brands at the outset of treatment,” Dr Weekes said.

The use of generic medicines must benefit the consumer without placing him or her at increased risk of medicine misadventure. For example, if a patient is likely to become confused because of a change in the appearance of a medicine or packaging, then switching brands may not be in that patient’s best interests.

NPS asks health professionals to consult with consumers prior to switching a particular brand of medicine and to consider the patient’s needs when prescribing medicines. Pharmacists and GPs are encouraged to help the patient become familiar with the active ingredient name. For consumers to safely use generics it is important to point out on the packaging the active ingredient name.

“It is important that consumers not only understand about bioequivalence but that they also understand that there are circumstances where switching brands is not safe or recommended,” Dr Weekes said.

Bioequivalence has not been established for some medicines, so these cannot be switched. When a patient is stabilised on a particular brand of a critical dose medicine, avoid switching brands because the effects of potential medication errors after brand switching are likely to be more serious than with other medicines.

NPS recommends the Safe and Appropriate Use of Generic Medicines training module to help pharmacy assistants better understand generic medicines and their place in QUM. Pharmacy Assistants are often the first people consumers speak to about their medicines. This module recognises the important role they play in helping consumers makes choices about their medicines to use them appropriately and safely. Pharmacists can take the opportunity to discuss pharmacy policy with staff when using the module.

ENDS

For further information contact Elayn James on 02 8217 8700 (bh), 0419 618 365 or ejames@nps.org.au


Sydney Uni student wins the weigh-in for quality medicines use

A University of Sydney pharmacy student has won the Student category of the National Quality Use of Medicines (QUM) Awards 2008 for her Honours project The Importance of Weight for Calculating Doses of Renally Excreted Drugs, an important QUM issue.

The winner, Ms Lisa Kouladjian, who is now a Masters student in Pharmacy, completed the work at the Clinical Pharmacology Department of the Royal North Shore Hospital. There were also two Highly Commended students, Ms Wern Jing Ding and Mr Ian Coombes, both from the University of Queensland (UQ).

Winners across the awarded categories – media and the sub-category of trade media; student, health organisation, community and poster – were announced at the National Medicines Symposium 2008 dinner in Canberra last night. Senator the Hon Jan McLucas, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing, presented the Awards.

The National QUM Awards are an initiative of the National Prescribing Service Limited (NPS) and the Pharmaceutical Health And Rational use of Medicines (PHARM) Committee to recognise the QUM achievements of a variety of programs and activities.

Ms Kouladjian’s project aimed to increase the frequency of weighing patients in two acute hospital wards. Where the patients’ weight information isn’t readily available, it may be estimated. An inaccurate estimate may result in either not enough or too much (subtherapeutic or toxic doses) of some drugs.

Patients using certain medicines where the dosing is dependent on body weight that are not weighed can experience more adverse drug events. The project considered two drugs, enoxaparin and the antibiotic gentamicin, for which the prescriber needs to know the patients’ weight to calculate the effective and safe dose.

The successful evidence-based intervention enhanced awareness about weighing patients and the importance of weight in calculating the doses of these drugs and improved QUM in a hospital setting.

Highly commended student Ms Wern Jing Ding completed her project as a fourth-year UQ pharmacy student while on placement at GPpartners in Brisbane. The project investigated the extent and appropriateness of medication alteration, such as crushing tablets, in residential aged care facilities (RACFs). Though effective and safe administration of medications may be compromised by medication alteration, it is a common practice in RACFs worldwide.

After the study, GPpartners’ Aged Care Team made a “Medication alteration decision making flow chart”. Endorsed by local aged care panels, it was given to all RACFs in the Division.

The result of Mr Ian Coombes study into medical interns’ attitudes to safe medication practice prior to starting their first hospital position and after they had made prescribing errors was the development of a standard state wide medication chart and a safe medication practice tutorial program.

The medication chart was later adopted as the national in-patient medication chart and the safe medication practice tutorial program has been implemented for all clinical students at UQ. Mr Coombes completed the study as a PhD student at UQ.

QUM is one of the central objectives of Australia's National Medicines Policy. QUM means selecting management options wisely, choosing suitable medicines if a medicine is considered necessary, and using medicines safely and effectively. The definition of QUM applies equally to decisions about medicine use by individuals and decisions that affect the health of the population.

ENDS

For further information or interviews, email ejames@nps.org.au or call Elayn James on (M) 0419 618 365.

Quality medicines use a Vital Health topic

Health magazine wins in National QUM Awards 2008

The informative, educational and entertaining feature article series dispelling myths about generic medicines have made Vital Health the winner of the 2008 Quality Use of Medicines (QUM) Award (Media category).

Winners across the awarded categories – media, the sub-category of trade media, student, health organisations and community organisations – were announced in Canberra last night.

The National QUM Awards are an initiative of the National Prescribing Service Limited (NPS) and the Pharmaceutical Health And Rational use of Medicines (PHARM) Committee to recognise the QUM achievements of a variety of programs and activities. The winners were announced as part of the biennial National Medicines Symposium (NMS), held this year in Canberra from May 14-16.

Senator the Hon Jan McLucas, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing, presented the Awards at the NMS 2008 dinner in Canberra. Journalist Geraldine Doogue was the MC.

The winning media entry was a series of four in-depth feature stories written to educate readers about generic medicines and to dispel commonly held misconceptions and concerns.

The story topics included: “What’s In a Name”, about why generic medications are just as effective as the brand medicine, explaining they undergo the same rigorous assessments and contain the same active ingredients; “Brave New World” looked at how the increase in generic medicines will impact the use of medicines in Australia; “Generics Update” highlighted the latest patent-expired active ingredients and the illnesses that they are used to treat. It also explained that a generic version of a medicine may be made once a patent has expired; and finally, “Life Savers” looked at the history of the PBS and how generic medicines use will impact on it.

Vital Health is published by Text Pacific Publishing for National Pharmacies, a South Australian-based organisation with pharmacies in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales.

ENDS

For further information or interviews, email ejames@nps.org.au or call Elayn James on (M) 0419 618 365.

Old drugs, new tricks – pharmacy magazine column wins national award

A column on new applications for old drugs in Australian Pharmacist has won the trade media prize in the National Quality Use of Medicines (QUM) Awards 2008, announced in Canberra last night.

Australian Pharmacist is the journal of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia.

Winners across the awarded categories – media and the sub-category of trade media; student, health organisation, community and poster – were announced at the National QUM Awards event in Canberra last night.

The National QUM Awards are an initiative of the National Prescribing Service Limited (NPS) and the Pharmaceutical Health And Rational use of Medicines (PHARM) Committee to recognise the QUM achievements of a variety of programs and activities.

The biennial Awards were presented by Senator the Hon Jan McLucas, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing at the biennial National Medicines Symposium 2008 dinner. Journalist Geraldine Doogue was the MC.

The entry, the monthly column Old Drug – New Indication from 2007 and 2008, was authored by Dr Lisa Nissen. The series is part of the “Knowledge in Practice” section of Australian Pharmacist.

The column updates pharmacists on some of the “new” and sometimes unregistered indications that old drugs (and some not so old) were being used for. It highlights the new and potentially useful indications for medicines by providing an overview of the evidence base for their use in various new indications. This information is important to the quality use of these medicines and is otherwise unlikely to be gathered into any single straight-forward source.

The column aims to improve QUM by providing pharmacists with the evidence base behind new indications being introduced for older medications. Whenever possible, information was included about where the new indications are in the regulatory process, either here or overseas.

The “Knowledge in Practice” section aims to provide a wider range of continuing professional development opportunities for pharmacists who receive Australian Pharmacist, anchored to evidence-based practice and quality use of medicine principles.

QUM is one of the central objectives of Australia's National Medicines Policy. QUM means selecting management options wisely, choosing suitable medicines if a medicine is considered necessary, and using medicines safely and effectively. The definition of QUM applies equally to decisions about medicine use by individuals and decisions that affect the health of the population.

ENDS

For further information or interviews, email ejames@nps.org.au or call Elayn James on (M) 0419 618 365.

War veterans’ program wins national award for improving health

A national program that has reached more than 200,000 people including veterans and war widows, is the winner of the Health Organisation (public and not-for-profit) category of the National Quality Use of Medicines (QUM) Awards 2008. The program, the Veterans’ Medicines Advice and Therapeutics Education Services (Veterans’ MATES), is run by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA).

Winners across the awarded categories – media and the sub-category of trade media, student, health organisation, community and poster – were announced at the biennial National Medicines Symposium 2008 dinner in Canberra last night. Senator the Hon Jan McLucas, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing, presented the Awards.

The National QUM Awards are an initiative of the National Prescribing Service Limited (NPS) and the Pharmaceutical Health And Rational use of Medicines (PHARM) Committee to recognise the QUM achievements of a variety of programs and activities.

Veterans’ MATES contributes to QUM through patient-specific prescriber feedback. It is an integrated QUM program which uses DVA’s administrative health database to identify veterans who may be at risk of medication misadventure.

The database covers 310,000 veterans and war widows or widowers, and holds data on all pharmaceutical, medical, hospital and allied health services. Veterans’ MATES then provides information to assist veterans and their health practitioners in improving the management of their medicines.

Veterans’ MATES has resulted in clinically significant changes in prescribing and an increase in the medication-related services delivered by medical practitioners. It has also delivered greater interaction between general practitioners (GPs) and their veteran patients and improved health outcomes for some veterans.

Employing QUM principles, Veterans’ MATES uses an evidence-based, collaborative approach to identify needs at different levels - for instance, at the individual, organisation and policy levels - and in different stakeholder groups, such as health professionals, veterans, carers and policy planners.

Veterans’ MATES has reached 20,400 GPs, 171,400 veterans and more than 8,500 pharmacists.

In addition, the work of the Safe Medication Practice Unit (SMPU) at Queensland Health was Highly Commended in this category. The SMPU uses a systems approach to prevent and address adverse drug events that result in patient harm by improving medication-related practices in key area.

The systems approach acknowledges that errors are generally not intentional, are inevitable because of human limitations and are wired into systems. The SMPU works to change those systems to reduce error prone situations; make it harder for people to make mistakes; ensure if a mistake does happen, checks and balances are in place to detect it; to provide information at point of prescribing, and provide standardisation and include forcing functions to promote safety.

The SMPU is a team of multidisciplinary staff which engages and collaborates with multidisciplinary stakeholders at hospital/service delivery level. The entry was submitted by Elaine Lum.

QUM is one of the central objectives of Australia's National Medicines Policy. QUM means selecting management options wisely, choosing suitable medicines if a medicine is considered necessary, and using medicines safely and effectively. The definition of QUM applies equally to decisions about medicine use by individuals and decisions that affect the health of the population.

ENDS

For further information or interviews, email ejames@nps.org.au or call Elayn James on (M) 0419 618 365.

Aboriginal health workers central to Award winning project

The Good Medicines Better Health Pilot Project to improve medicine-related healthcare received by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is the winner of the Community category of the National Quality Use of Medicines (QUM) Awards 2008.

Winners across the awarded categories – media and the sub-category of trade media; student, health organisation, community and poster – were announced at the biennial National Medicines Symposium 2008 dinner in Canberra last night. Senator the Hon Jan McLucas, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing, presented the Awards.

The National QUM Awards are an initiative of the National Prescribing Service Limited (NPS) and the Pharmaceutical Health And Rational use of Medicines (PHARM) Committee to recognise the QUM achievements of a variety of programs and activities.

Good Medicines Better Health trains Aboriginal health workers to become leaders in quality medicines use and related quality of care areas. It is the result of a partnership between the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia and the National Prescribing Service Limited (NPS).

The project provides senior Aboriginal health workers with the skills and knowledge to train their colleagues, who then counsel and support clients on managing their medicines, especially medicines for asthma, diabetes and hypertension.

The project also includes a support team and a user-friendly training package that features PowerPoint presentations, graphics, activities and assessments. Senior Aboriginal health workers reviewed and refined the development and implementation of the training package. Staff at three pilot sites are using the package: Port Lincoln in South Australia, Melbourne Victoria and in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

The training strategy instils confidence in trainers to liaise with other health professionals and stakeholders on QUM issues at a national, workplace and community level. An evaluation report on the project will be prepared when the pilot phase ends next month (June 2008).

Both the winning and Highly Commended entry in the Community category employed a train-the-trainer approach. The Highly Commended Seniors’ Quality Use of Medicines National Peer Education Program recruited and trained volunteer peer educators who are aged 50 years and over.

These senior peer educators then led other seniors through information about medicines in sessions which utilise interactive activities and encourage feedback and questions.

Information fact sheets and handouts are distributed and participants are encouraged to become active partners in their own health care by discussing issues around medicines with their doctor, pharmacist and other health professionals.

The program, a partnership between the Council of the Ageing (COTA) Partnership, COTA Alliance, and NPS, combined an understanding of the needs and interests of seniors in Australia with QUM expertise.

QUM is one of the central objectives of Australia's National Medicines Policy. QUM means selecting management options wisely, choosing suitable medicines if a medicine is considered necessary, and using medicines safely and effectively. The definition of QUM applies equally to decisions about medicine use by individuals and decisions that affect the health of the population.

ENDS

For further information or interviews, email ejames@nps.org.au or call Elayn James on (M) 0419 618 365.

Keep an eye on quit-smoking patients using varenicline

 National Prescribing Service Limited (NPS) wants health professionals to be aware that following the release of a study in the USA recently the spotlight is back on varenicline (Champix). Reports of serious accidents, heart and vision problems, are fueling debate around the safety of the medicine.

NPS urges health professionals to monitor patients using varenicline for any behaviour and/or mood changes or any unusual symptoms or events that occur while taking the medicine.

“Psychiatric symptoms were previously noted so that information is not new,” said Ms Karen Kaye, Acting CEO, NPS. “But it’s important to take all reports of adverse events seriously, and this new report may be highlighting side effects that have not been previously identified.”

“When we have had a chance to properly review the data, if new information is revealed, we will be sure to share any findings with health professionals. In the meantime, patients should be encouraged to report side effects, particularly those relating to mood changes or psychiatric symptoms, and health professionals are encouraged to report adverse events to the Australian Drug Reactions Advisory Committee in the usual way,” she said. 

Varenicline must be prescribed as part of a comprehensive program which includes smoking-cessation support and counselling to maximise its effectiveness.

An NPS RADAR review released in January noted that as with all new drugs, the full safety and efficacy profile is not known. Varenicline is a new drug in a new class of drugs, therefore some extra uncertainty exists about its safety profile.

Nausea was the most common adverse effect of varenicline in clinical trials. Other common adverse effects included insomnia, abnormal dreams, headache and constipation.

There are some post-marketing reports of new-onset depressed mood, suicidal thoughts or aggressive and erratic behaviour within days to weeks of starting varenicline in patients with and without pre-existing psychiatric illness. It is unclear whether these are caused by smoking cessation or by varenicline.

The safety and efficacy of varenicline in smokers with serious medical or psychiatric illness has not been established. Varenicline has a different mechanism of action to other smoking cessation therapies and is thought to work by reducing craving and withdrawal symptoms.

In clinical trials of generally healthy, motivated smokers, more people using varenicline (23%) had quit smoking at 1 year compared with those using bupropion or placebo (15% and 10%, respectively).

However the effectiveness of varenicline on long-term abstinence rates beyond 12 months has not been studied. The PBS will only subsidise one 12-week course of treatment of varenicline per patient per year. Varenicline was available on the PBS from 1 January 2008.

For consumers, varenicline was also reviewed in Medicine Update in January.

Health professionals can contact TAIS (Therapeutic Advice and Information Service) on 1300 138 677 if you have any questions.

ENDS

Contact Elayn James on 02 8217 8700 (bh), 0419 618 365 or ejames@nps.org.au.

 


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