Ensuring Medicines for Tomorrow’s World
Chapter 6: The Use of Medicines: Education, Information and Persuasion
POLICIES ON THE USE OF MEDICINES In Chapter 4 the purpose of public policy in the field of medicines was defined; it was to ensure that effective and safe medicines of good quality were accessible and affordable to the entire population and that they were rationally used. The latter part of that definition carries public policy beyond technical involvement with medicinal products themselves and into the area of behavior. In Chapter 9 we confront the topic of overmedication, a practice that can be detrimental to public health, but also wasteful in direct economic terms. Ensuring rational use is, however, more than a question of discouraging such incorrect use. It should also involve a positive effort to identify and promote those uses of medicines that will provide the greatest benefit coupled with the least risk. That will mean dealing with the public, and also with the health professionals concerned and those who influence all these parties. Establishing and maintaining public policy involves much more than creating or enforcing rules. Successful policy must also be based on the promotion and maintenance of wide understanding and support for the thinking that underlies that policy. Education, information and persuasion are complementary processes to this end, but they are often confused – sometimes deliberately so. In particular, some questionable practices in commercial advertising and promotion may be claimed by their proponents to represent useful forms of information and even of education. One must make a distinction between these elements. In essence, one might say, education is...