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WHO | Rational use of medicines

Essential medicines and health products

The Pursuit of Responsible Use of Medicines: Sharing and Learning
from Country Experiences
Technical Report prepared for the Ministers Summit on
The benefits of responsible use of medicines: Setting
policies for better and cost-effective health care
Document link

Rational use of medicines requires that "patients receive

medications appropriate to their clinical needs, in doses that
meet their own individual requirements, for an adequate
period of time, and at the lowest cost to them and their community".

A major global problem

Irrational use of medicines is a major problem worldwide. WHO
estimates that more than half of all medicines are prescribed, dispensed
or sold inappropriately, and that half of all patients fail to take them
correctly. The overuse, underuse or misuse of medicines results in
wastage of scarce resources and widespread health hazards. Examples
of irrational use of medicines include: use of too many medicines per
patient ("poly-pharmacy"); inappropriate use of antimicrobials, often in
inadequate dosage, for non-bacterial infections; over-use of injections
when oral formulations would be more appropriate; failure to prescribe
in accordance with clinical guidelines; inappropriate self-medication,
often of prescription-only medicines; non-adherence to dosing regimes.

Country stories

EMP training resources

Drug alerts

Ebola treatments and


Rational Use of Medicines: Summary of activities

WHO advocates 12 key interventions to promote more rational use:

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WHO | Rational use of medicines

1. Establishment of a multidisciplinary national body to coordinate

policies on medicine use
2. Use of clinical guidelines
3. Development and use of national essential medicines list
4. Establishment of drug and therapeutics committees in districts and
5. Inclusion of problem-based pharmacotherapy training in
undergraduate curricula
6. Continuing in-service medical education as a licensure requirement
7. Supervision, audit and feedback
8. Use of independent information on medicines
9. Public education about medicines
10. Avoidance of perverse financial incentives
11. Use of appropriate and enforced regulation
12. Sufficient government expenditure to ensure availability of
medicines and staff.
Information resources and web sites
Does stopping a course of antibiotics early lead to antibiotic resistance?
Antimicrobial Resistance
Essential Drugs Monitor web site
Priority Medicines web site
Promoting Rational Drug Use in the Community
Joint NGO/WHO briefing presentations on Rational Use of Medicines,
60th World Health Assembly, 2007.
Training courses and workshops
International Conferences on Improving Use of Medicines (ICIUM)
Promoting rational drug use -- a CD-ROM based training course
Promouvoir lusage rationnel des mdicaments -- Un cours sur
The Drug and Therapeutics Committees Training Course
Archived section on promoting rational use of medicines in the
Secretariat's report on Progress in the Rational Use of Medicines 2007
Resolution WHA 60.16 in 2007 on Progress in the Rational Use of
Progress report on ResolutionWHA60.16 in 2009
The Pursuit of Responsible Use of Medicines: Sharing and Learning
from Country Experiences

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WHO | Rational use of medicines

Drug promotion, what we know, what we have yet to learn (WHO/EDM

/PAR/2004.3) [pdf 956kb]
Educational initiatives for medical and pharmacy students about drug
promotion (WHO/PSM/PAR/2005.2) [pdf 3.75Mb]
an international cross-sectional survey
Starting or Strengthening a Drug Bulletin, A Practical Manual
(WHO/PSM/PAR/2005.1) [pdf 2.23Mb]
View/download our publications

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