2019: A watershed year for Australian medicine safety

medicine safety

A reflection on one of the most pivotal years for pharmacy practice in Australia’s history.

The announcement in November that all state and territory health ministers, and the Federal Health Minister agreed to declare the safe and quality use of medicines a National Health Priority Area (NHPA) is momentous. As I have written to members previously, the importance of this announcement cannot be understated.

This announcement will for the first time focus state and federal government attention on measuring, monitoring and improving medicine safety. This will include investment in areas where funding is needed to reduce unnecessary harms of suboptimal medicine use.

PSA led the call for this declaration in response to the findings of our Medicine Safety: Take Care report in January, and it was the foundation of Pharmacists in 2023 released in February.

We were privileged to have Canadian patient safety advocate Melissa Sheldrick share her lived experience of a fatal medicine safety error involving her son Andrew with Australian consumers, politicians and pharmacists, including at PSA19 in July.

Significant advocacy work by PSA’s elected officials and skilled team of staff throughout the year helped policy makers fully understand the significant problem we have with medicine safety in Australia.

On reflection, I am enormously proud of how our work has contributed to medicine safety and the quality use of medicines finally receiving the attention it warrants. However, while the NHPA announcement is exciting, the work of improving medicine safety is only just beginning.

PSA will continue the momentum on behalf of pharmacists and patients through co-hosting a stakeholder forum in Canberra on 9 December. This forum will bring together pharmacists, consumers, doctors, nurses, government officials and academics to help inform the government’s response to the National Health Priority Area.

We look forward to leading, listening and collaborating at this event, held in conjunction with the Consumers Health Forum, the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia, NPS MedicineWise, the University of Sydney and Monash University.

As leaders come together to reflect on what they can do to improve medicine safety, I encourage members to reflect on their own practice and to consider what they can do to lead improvement and make the use of medicines in Australia safer. Each one of us can do more in our own communities to engage consumers in medicines and protect them from unnecessary harm that medicines can cause. Reflecting on our own individual practice is a logical point to start.

What will be your medicine safety new years’ resolution?

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR Chris Freeman FPS BPharm, GDipClinPharm, PhD, AACPA, AdvPracPharm, BCACP, MAICD