Intended for healthcare professionals


A prescription for better prescribing

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 31 August 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:459

Adhering to Aronson's prescription

A review of Australian junior practitioners1 shows that concerns
about ability to prescribe safely is not limited to the UK. Improving the
confidence and skill of junior medical officers in safe prescribing
practices promotes the quality use of medicines, a major priority area of
National Prescribing Service (NPS). Quality use of medicines is one of the
central objectives of Australia's National Medicines Policy. NPS has
developed a series of online learning modules emphasising good prescribing
skills and rationale therapeutics. These modules are aimed at final year
medical students, and are currently included in the curricula of all
Australian medical schools. The process of development, implementation and
evaluation of these modules has been reported elsewhere 2. Similar
modules, with a stronger emphasis on therapeutics decision making have
been developed for new graduate medical officers, and are currently being
piloted at a number of teaching hospitals. The suitability of such modules
is also being assessed for use by overseas trained doctors, on whom the
Australian medical system is increasingly reliant 3.

As a national body, NPS oversees the management and ongoing
development of these prescribing modules. Clinical pharmacologists from
the majority of medical schools were involved in the development and
through ASCEPT (Australasian Society for Clinical and Experimental
Pharmacologists and Toxicologists) have an ongoing role in reviewing the
content of the modules. Additionally, NPS is promoting life long learning
among the prescribing community, providing opportunities for prescribers
to participate in case studies, audits and educational visiting programs.

Is our adherence to Aronson’s prescription having an effect? As a
result of the broad range of NPS activities, GPs and pharmacists report
NPS to be a trusted source of independent information on new drugs. We
have observed more rational use of antibiotics, NSAID and low-dose
thiazides in keeping with program key messages 4. Most importantly,
medical students who use our prescribing modules report feeling better
equipped to prescribe having used the modules 5.

1. Rolfe, I, Pearson, S, Sanson-Fisher, RW, et al., Identifying
medical school learning needs: a survey of Australian interns. Education
for Health, 2001; 3: 395 - 404.

2. Smith, AJ, Tasioulas, T, Cockayne, NL, et al., Construction and
evaluation of a web-based interactive prescribing curriculum for senior
medical students. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 2006.(in

3. Van Der Weyden, MB ,Chew , M, Arriving in Australia: overseas-trained
doctors. MJA, 2004; 181: 633-634.

4. National Prescribing Service, Evaluation report no. 8 2004 - 2005 -
Progress, achievements and future directions. 2005.

5. National Prescribing Service, Medical Student prescribing curriculum -
a joint ASCEPT and NPS initiative - medical student survey. 2005.

Competing interests:
Staff of the National Prescribing Service, Australia

Competing interests: No competing interests

11 September 2006
Meg Stuart
Manager, Curriculum and Training Program
Gillian Shenfield, Chair, Curriculum and Training Working Group
National Prescribing Service, PO Box 1147, Strawberry Hills, NSW 2012, Australia