An Australian organization offering independent drug advice is being shut down after funding cuts

NPS MedicineWise, an Australian agency that offers independent and evidence-based information on medicines, is to close at the end of 2022 after the federal government decided to cut funding.

For 24 years, NPS MedicineWise has provided education and resources on the best use of medicines and medicine safety to GPs, allied health professionals and the general public in Australia.

“We believe this will turn out to be a poor decision and will make the safe and prudent use of medicines in Australia much more difficult to achieve,” NPS MedicineWise chairman Andrew Knight said in a media statement.1

The organization saw its funding cut in the March 2022 budget as part of the redesign of the Quality Use of Medicine, Diagnostics and Pathology program. After intense lobbying by health and medical groups, the government commissioned the auditing firm Deloitte to carry out a quick review of the decision. However, after receiving this review, the Federal Minister for Health and Aging Services, Mark Butler, decided to go ahead with the plan.

The decision “is a huge step backwards,” said Barbara Mintzes, associate professor at the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Center and Faculty of Pharmacy. She told BMJ“The main concern is that doctors and patients will find it harder to access independent, evidence-based information they know they can trust. NPS MedicineWise has built a network of credibility and trust.

Mintzes said that when NPS MedicineWise was first established, a key goal was continued programmatic support for high-quality medication use. “The experience with individual programs has been that they are not as effective, often requiring sustained and repeated interventions to improve prescribing and medication use,” she said.

Great global advantage

The Australian Commission for Health Safety and Quality will take over some of NPS MedicineWise’s operations, while other services will be outsourced. Mintzes said, however, that the commission was mainly mandated to work in hospitals rather than in health care and had other types of expertise.

She said it was not clear which NPS MedicineWise jobs would be outsourced and which would be dropped altogether. For example, it is not clear what will happen to the Choosing Wisely campaign or its educational modules for medical and pharmacy students and continuing education. Mintzes added: “There has been a wall of silence surrounding the funding of NPS MedicineWise, which creates a huge amount of uncertainty.

Mintzes, who moved to Australia from Canada in 2015, said BMJ, “Those of us who work on drug policy in Canada have dreamed for years of this comprehensive public support for independent drug information and education. In Australia, no one has to rely on a marketer for information about medicines.

“Australia has had a major advantage internationally in having NPS MedicineWise as a ‘one-stop shop’ for user-friendly, up-to-date, evidence-based information on medicines.” It’s very sad to think that we are losing this.”

NPS MedicineWise said its programs and resources reached all GPs and a third of residential care homes across Australia and had made significant and demonstrable improvements in the health of Australians, including by reducing drug-related harm, cancer, stroke and other major outcomes. cardiovascular diseases.

It said in a statement, “The agency has delivered a net return on investment of more than 2:1 to the federal government by delivering over $1.1 billion [£620m; €710m; US$710m] in direct savings for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and the Medicare Benefits Scheme (MBS).”

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