Using national health policies to improve access to palliative care medications in the community

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2009 Mar;37(3):395-402. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2008.03.013. Epub 2008 Aug 22.


Access to affordable priority palliative care medicines needs to be informed by good clinical data from well-conducted clinical trials designed to address efficacy, cost-effectiveness, and safety. Availability of priority palliative care symptom control medicines improves the provision of palliation in the place of patient's choice including the community. Within Australia, a National Medicines Policy and a Palliative Care Strategy endorsed by Federal and State and Territory health ministers have facilitated a process to improve the evidence for palliative clinical practice and, through this, improve community availability of key medications for people at the end of life. The initiative, coordinated by a working party under government auspices, has brought together medicine regulators, the pharmaceutical industry, government, policy makers, and clinicians. The brief was to improve availability of key palliative care medications within the current national drug regulatory and funding frameworks. The results to date include: a palliative care section within the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme generating the first ever patient-defined section; medicines not previously listed now available; commitment of AU$9.46 M for a national multisite collaborative clinical study network to improve the evidence for clinical interventions in the palliative care setting through systematic investigation with rigorous Phase III and IV studies to inform registration and subsidy applications; and establishing a national Communication Network of the Palliative Care Medications Working Group for the health workforce and community to improve the quality use where improved access has been achieved.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Health Policy / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Health Policy / trends*
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • New Zealand
  • Palliative Care / statistics & numerical data*