What is the National Medicines Policy (NMP)?
The National Medicines Policy (NMP) is a high-level framework for all Australians that focuses on the availability of medicines and how they are used. This foundational document will ready our health system for the next innovative medicines, vaccines or biotherapeutic breakthroughs and prepare us for any future health crisis.
Why is it important:
The NMP guides and informs a range of activities encompassing medication and medical services management, access and affordability in Australia through a partnership approach between all sectors. The Vision of the NMP is “to achieve the world’s best health, social and economic outcomes for all Australians through a highly supportive medicines policy environment.”
The NMP provides an opportunity to future-proof parts of our health system to ensure Australia remains a priority country for launching new medicines, vaccines and biotherapeutics so all Australians have access to world-class medicines when they need them. Australia currently lags behind other OECD countries such as Japan, Germany and the UK, and this is not good enough.
First published in 2000, Australia’s National Medicines Policy (NMP) is a framework that aims to deliver positive health outcomes for all Australians through equitable access and appropriate use of medicines.
The NMP contains 4 central pillars:
- Pillar 1: Fair, timely, safe and reliable access to medicines and medicines services, at affordable prices. The aim here is to ensure access to and maintain Australian’s health and wellbeing at a world class level
- Pillar 2: Medicines are high quality, safe and effective
- Pillar 3: Medicines are used correctly and safely
- Pillar 4: Medicines industry and researchers work together and are innovative and sustainable. They have the ability and skills to meet health needs now and in the future. The aim here is to foster a thriving, dynamic medicines industry and research sector that is proactively supported to meet current and future health needs in Australia and internationally.
A review of the NMP was commissioned in 2019 in recognition of the substantial changes to the health landscape since the original policy was developed. This Review was led by an Expert Advisory Committee. The Committee is chaired by Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Michael Kidd AM. Its members include Professor Lloyd Sansom AO; Mrs Janette Donovan; Dr Sarah Dineen-Griffin and Mr David Herd.
The revised NMP was released in February 2023 by the Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon. Mark Butler MP. Further information about the consultation can be viewed on the Department of Health website.
Medicines Australia’s Position
The refreshed NMP affects all Australians and sets the ambition to achieve the world’s best health, social
and economic results, including fair, timely, reliable and affordable access to high quality medicines, vaccines, biotherapeutics and medical services.
Reform of the Health Technology Assessment (HTA) process over the next 12-18 months is required to realise the vision of the NMP and fulfil the aim of Pillar 1.
Medicines Australia’s Recommendations:
1. The NMP is Foundational
The NMP is foundational and is to guide all aspects of medicine, vaccine or biotherapeutic policies. This should include funding and resourcing to fulfil the aim of Pillar 1. Further, the current Health Technology Assessment (HTA) reform in 2023 must ensure that any outcome recommendations do, in fact, support the NMP and do not bring about unintended consequences contrary to the aims of the NMP.
2. Horizon Scanning Data is a Key Enabler
The NMP is supported by seven enablers, which includes data and information. A key element is Horizon Scanning for new and emerging health technologies (see definition below). It is important for horizon scanning to be nationally coordinated and include the identification of transformative technologies, early stakeholder engagement and timely communication of outputs of the horizon scan to stakeholders.
3. Governance and evaluation are critical
From a governance perspective, the new NMP states that it will be regularly reviewed, evaluated and updated every five years or when material changes are necessary. This is welcome and should be accompanied by a commitment to appoint an NMP governance committee, produce an annual progress report and report against key performance indicators. Medicines Australia will work with Government and other stakeholders to develop robust monitoring and evaluation measures.
 Horizon Scanning: The systematic identification of health technologies that are new, emerging or becoming obsolete and that have the potential to affect health, health services and/or society (EUnetHTA WP4 Deliverable 4.10, Oslo, 2020)
https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Health_Aged_Care_and_Sport/Newdrugs/Report McKell Institute (2018), “Our Health Our Wealth: The Impact of Ill Health on Retirement Savings in Australia” accessed via https://medicinesaustralia.com.au/wp-content/uploads/sites/52/2018/09/Our-Health-Our-Wealth-full-report.pdf