Health sector collaboration the key to improving medicine safety

The Medicine Safety Forum brought together leaders from the health sector, government and academia and members of the public

Better use of existing funding, leveraging digital health and empowering consumers are the keys to improving medicine safety.

These were the main themes to come out of discussions at the Medicine Safety Forum held in Canberra on Monday.

Convened by the PSA, Consumers Health Forum of Australia (CHF), the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia (SHPA), NPS MedicineWise, Monash University and the University of Sydney, attendees were challenged to think differently about the safe use of medicines in Australia.

With the cost of medicine-related harm estimated at more than $1.4 billion each year, PSA National President Associate Professor Chris Freeman said each area of the health sector has a role to play in addressing what he called ‘one of Australia’s greatest healthcare challenges’.

‘It was inspiring to see the sector work together to proactively identify those measures we can cooperatively pursue to make a real difference and protect patients,’ he said.

‘Improving medicine safety is not just about spending more money but also about being more strategic with the money that is spent.’

The forum welcomed the Council of Australian Governments Health Ministers’ decision to make Medicine Safety and the Quality Use of Medicines the 10th National Health Priority Area (NHPA) last month.

This followed the release of PSA’s Medicine Safety: Take Care report in January, which found 250,000 Australians are hospitalised each year and another 400,000 present to emergency departments as a result of medication errors, inappropriate use, misadventure and interactions.

The ideas and recommendations raised by stakeholders at the event will be formulated into a report that will be used to help inform the government’s response to the 10th NHPA.

CHF CEO Leanne Wells said conversations at the forum often returned to how important it is for patients to be actively engaged in their health care decisions and educated about the medicines they are prescribed.

‘Modern medication offers great benefits, but the rate of hospital admissions caused by avoidable medication errors shows the importance of ensuring consumers are informed about their medicines, which is an integral part of broader quality use of medicines,’ she said.

This was echoed by NPS MedicineWise CEO Steve Morris, who said it was important to ‘cherish the ethos of quality use of medicines’.

‘While Australia’s National Strategy for the Quality Use of Medicines requires an update, the principles of 20 years ago, including the primacy of consumers, is just as relevant today,’ he said.

A/Prof Freeman thanked the more than 100 delegates who took part and applauded them for thinking outside the box.

‘[There] was deep discussion of the actions we can take to reduce harm from medicines,’ he said.

‘The depth and number of participants at the forum shows how important the issue is and how committed the health care sector is to improve medicine safety.’