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National Prescribing Service Press Releases

Katie Butt
From a Good Prescribing Perspective

Issue 73: July 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:

 * National Prescribing Service wins Gold Quill award, New York

* Antidepressants alone: Not for bipolar depression

* Good hygiene not pills the best way of avoiding a cold

National Prescribing Service wins Gold Quill award, New York


NEW YORK: Australian non-profit organisation, the National Prescribing Service Limited (NPS) has won a prestigious international 2008 Gold Quill Award for excellence in communication for its 2007 Get to know your medicines and Generic medicines are an equal choice national awareness campaigns.

The Award for Excellence in Communication Management – Multi-Audience will be presented to NPS by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) at the awards ceremony in New York on 23 June 2008.

NPS CEO Dr Lynn Weekes said, “Winning the award is an incredible achievement and a recognition of NPS’s commitment to excellence. I am immensely proud of the NPS staff who were involved in the campaign but would also like to acknowledge the pivotal role our partner organisations played in helping us to communicate these important medicines messages.”

Partner organisations included: the Consumers’ Health Forum of Australia, the Council on the Ageing (COTA), the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA), Medicare Australia and a range of internal working groups comprising consumer, academic and health professionals. This is an example of a consumer-led campaign having strong impact.

Conducted from August to December 2007, the generic medicines campaign targeted senior Australians and was aimed at raising their confidence and understanding of generic medicines with a focus on safety, quality and choice. The integrated campaign included a range of strategies such as television advertising, a phone help line, printed resources, website and community information sessions. It also explained the principles of quality use of medicines (QUM). 

IABC’s Gold Quill Awards program has been the hallmark of excellence in business communication for more than 35 years. The winners represent the best in organisational communication and their work plans serve as best practices for professional communicators across communication disciplines. This year’s competition was sponsored by Towers Perrin and received over 1,040 entries from 30 countries. Of these, 116 were selected to receive awards; 41 Awards of Excellence, 73 Awards of Merit and two student awards.

The Gold Quill entries went through two rigorous rounds of judging by a team of top senior communicators from around the world. The final selection was made by the Gold Quill Blue Ribbon Panel of judges at the IABC world headquarters in San Francisco in March. The winners are being honored at the Gold Quill Awards gala on 23 June at IABC’s International Conference in New York City. A select number of winning entries will be on display at the conference.

To win the Gold Quill Award, NPS competed with peers from 30 countries including Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, U.K. and the U.S.

“This Award is particularly sweet for us as this is our 10th anniversary year – it’s a lovely birthday present,” said Dr Weekes.

NPS was established in 1998 with a mission to create an awareness, culture and environment that supports the quality use of medicines. Quality use of medicines include asking whether a medicine is necessary, if so, selecting management options wisely and using medicines safely and effectively. Today, NPS has a staff of approximately 120 people who run a diverse range of programs in partnership with health professionals, Government, community groups, industry and consumers.


Antidepressants alone: Not for bipolar depression

Psychiatrists have cautioned against the use of antidepressants alone in people with bipolar disorders, saying they could worsen a patient’s condition by causing a destabilisation in mood.

Dr Ajeet Singh and Professor Michael Berk, consultant psychiatrists from the University of Melbourne, state in the current edition of Australian Prescriber that the goal of treatment in bipolar disorder is to stabilise mood, and antidepressants may defeat this purpose if they are not taken with other drugs.

“Patients may need an antidepressant, but this must be taken with a mood-stabilising drug. Antidepressants place patients at risk of switching to elevated phases of the disorder and rapid cycling patterns,” they say in the article.

Patients should not simply be left on antidepressants long term without review, say the authors, as there is no good evidence of efficacy in the maintenance phase. If symptoms of elevated mood emerge, the patient should have their dose of the antidepressant reduced or stopped.

Dr Singh says that health professionals should consider the diagnosis of bipolar disorder in patients with treatment-resistant or recurrent depression.

The authors also strongly recommend the need for regular review, education, self-monitoring of mood, mood diaries and social-rhythm training to assist with better long-term patient outcomes. Educating patients about lifestyle changes and a close dialogue with relatives and carers is also essential, they say.

“Including family and carers in the management plan is an important aspect of care. Continuity of care, with good communication and rapport between doctor and patient, is particularly important in fostering compliance with treatment,” the article states.

For the complete article visit the Australian Prescriber website www.australianprescriber.com.


Australian Prescriber is an independent peer-reviewed journal providing critical commentary on therapeutic topics for health professionals, particularly doctors in general practice. It is published by the National Prescribing Service Limited (NPS), an independent, non-profit organisation for Quality Use of Medicines funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. Australian Prescriber is distributed every two months in hard copy to health professionals, free of charge, and online in full text at www.australianprescriber.com.

The Therapeutic Advice and Information Service (TAIS) is a medicines information service specifically for health professionals and is staffed by specialist drug information pharmacists to answer complex drug enquiries. Telephone 1300 138 677 Monday to Friday 9am-7pm Eastern Standard Time for the cost of a local call (mobiles may cost more).


Good hygiene not pills the best way of avoiding a cold

Want to avoid a cold over winter? Your best chance to do so is to practice good hygiene techniques rather than take preventive medicines, according to the National Prescribing Service Limited (NPS) Common colds need common sense, not antibiotics campaign. 

The Executive Manager of Quality Use of Medicines (QUM) Programs for NPS, Karen Kaye, said many people took vitamins, mineral supplements and other herbal remedies at this time of year to avoid a cold.

“The evidence currently at hand seems to indicate that vitamin C supplements, zinc and echinacea do not assist in cold prevention,” she said. “In the case of echinacea particularly, the quality of these medicines can differ greatly and most have not been tested in good quality clinical trials.” 

For treating colds she says an expert review of clinical studies of Vitamin C supplements, taken after symptoms show, did not give reliable effects in decreasing the duration or severity of symptoms. Zinc has not been shown to reduce the length or severity of a cold. Interestingly, a review of clinical studies published this year concluded that Echinacea purpurea, a specific variety of the plant, may be effective in the early treatment of colds in adults, but the results are unreliable. “A consistent problem is the quality of the clinical trials used to test these medicines,” she said.

Ms Kaye suggests basic hygiene practices such as washing hands frequently with soap; keeping your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth; and, not sharing crockery and cutlery as providing the best chances to avoid the average two to four colds that adults catch every year.

Cold symptoms usually begin one to two days after contact with the virus and you are most infectious in the early days of a cold. Symptoms usually improve in seven to 10 days.

And if you already have a cold? Rest, stop smoking and treat the symptoms. “Firstly, rest – give your immune system time to fight the cold,” Ms Kaye urged. She says drinking something soothing, gargling warm salty water or sucking on ice or a throat lozenge may provide relief from a sore throat. Saline (salt water) sprays or drops or inhaling steam from the shower will help clear mucus.

“Antibiotics won’t help your cold get better faster and won’t stop a cold from spreading to others because they simply don’t work on the viruses which cause common colds,” Ms Kaye said.

 Remember that medicines include over-the-counter preparations, vitamins, mineral and herbal supplements as well as what is prescribed for you by your doctor. If you are contemplating taking a medicine, weigh up the clinical evidence before you make a purchase. Visit www.nps.org.au/commoncolds or ask your pharmacist or doctor for advice and always read the label. If your symptoms come on suddenly, are severe or last longer than usual, visit your doctor.

 The NPS Common colds need common sense, not antibiotics campaign is the only Australia-wide strategy aimed at reducing the development and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. For more information on treatment or the symptoms that should be seen by a doctor visit www.nps.org.au/commoncolds.  For independent information on prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines call Medicines Line on 1300 888 763 to talk to a pharmacist between 9am and 6pm Monday to Friday, Eastern Standard Time (EST) for the cost of a local call (mobile calls may cost more).



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




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