Many medicines meet the three key regulatory requirements of quality, safety and efficacy. National formularies usually list several thousand licensed medicines and although prescribers are legally entitled to prescribe any of them it is desirable to limit the choice because:
- Treatments for specific diseases can be focused around the most effective and cost-effective options
- Prescribers (and patients) gain familiarity with a smaller number of medicines
- Pharmacies can concentrate stocks on a smaller number of medicines
- Prescribers can be guided towards adopting evidence-based practices
The process of ensuring the most optimal use of the available medicines is known as ‘medicines management’ or ‘quality use of medicines’ and involves both national and local processes.