IFA 2013 Challenge: Meeting the information needs of prescribers and users of medicines

IFA 2013 Challenge: Meeting the information needs of prescribers and users of medicines

Each year HIFA (Healthcare Information For All) includes a focus on a specific group of healthcare providers. In previous years, we have looked at students (2008-), nurses and midwives (2009), community health workers (2010-) and citizens, parents, children and families (2011/12-). On behalf of the HIFA Steering Group, we are delighted to announce the focus of the HIFA 2013-15 Challenge: Meeting the information needs of prescribers and users of medicines. We have created a new page on the HIFA website for this purpose:


Why This Is Important

Access to reliable, unbiased information on medicines is fundamental to health care. Prescribers and users often lack such information, especially in low-resource settings. Some have no information at all, or the information that they do have is commercially biased. As a result, countless people suffer harm, and sometimes death, as a result of prescribing errors such as the wrong medicine, or the wrong dose. Furthermore, irrational prescribing promotes the emergence of drug resistance. Countless people are already dying from multi-drug resistant tuberculosis and other drug-resistant strains that have emerged largely because of irrational prescribing. There is a real and growing threat to the human species from new microbes that are resistant to all known treatments.

Rational use of medicines can be defined as:

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”.


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.”


As WHO has proclaimed:

Appropriate use of antibiotics [and other medicines] is only possible if healthcare workers and the public have access to reliable, unbiased information on medicines. Universal access to reliable information on medicines is readily achievable and should be a cornerstone of efforts to promote rational prescribing. There is an urgent need for concerted action.”


What We Can Do

Our vision is that every prescriber and user of medicines will have access to the information and knowledge they need to use medicines effectively.

We are bringing together a working-group of HIFA volunteers to take this forward. The group will:

  • promote discussion on HIFA2015 around relevant issues, including drivers and barriers to the availability and use of reliable information on medicines
  • promote discussion on issues that are particularly relevant to different groups of (1) prescribers and (2) users
  • harness insights and perspectives from HIFA members and incorporate these into the HIFA Knowledge Base (currently in development).

We also seek to define, with the HIFA membership at large, at least one SMART Goal that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
This goal might be very specific and achievable within a short time span. For example, we may seek to persuade a publisher to make a vital publication freely available to all. Or it may be more ambitious, and require a longer effort. Or indeed, we may do both.

Who Will Lead the 2013-2015 Challenge?

Atai Okokon will lead the HIFA 2013-2015 Challenge with support from HIFA coordinator Neil Pakenham-Walsh and the HIFA Steering Group. Atai is a pharmacist with a passion for the availability and use of reliable information on medicines. She trained in Nigeria, and is currently doing a Masters in Global Health at the University of Oxford.

We invite all HIFA members with an interest to join the HIFA 2013 Challenge team to contact Atai at: atai.okokon@gtc.ox.ac.uk. Please note that all volunteers will need to be proactive and make themselves available for regular skype meetings.

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