Medicine Bag Improvement
Why THRF Advocate This?
The publicly accessible information on medicines is crucial for the patient safety. Misuse of the prescribed medicine could result in unfavorable side effects, overdose, ineffective treatments, or dangerous interactions between medicines. The medicine bag is one of the most common venues for the patients in Taiwan to receive information about their treatments. Obscure medicine bag would threaten patient safety, and result in unnecessary wastes of medical resources.
In 2002, the Taiwan Healthcare Reform Foundation conducted two surveys on the quality of medicine bag at 16 major medical centers and hospitals in Taiwan. The result showed most of medicine bags was substandard.
According to the survey, crucial drug safety information were either not provided or rarely appeared on the average medicine bags in Taiwan. The information that was often neglected included: "the name of pharmaceutical company, name of the pharmacist, name of physician who ordered the prescription, expiration date, side effects, and special notices".
Early Press Conferences and Government Responses
The Taiwan Healthcare Reform Foundation had been continuing to host press conferences at 2002, 2003, and 2004 to push for the medicine bags improvement. Our aim was to raise the public awareness toward this issue. The Department of Health (DOH) first responded to our advocacy by releasing new regulation at May, 2002. The new regulation listed 13 mandatory labeling items that were required to be on every medicine bag. These mandatory items included "name of the pharmacists, expiration date, and the name of pharmaceutical company", the informations which were previously widely ignored.
After DOH's initial response, we continued to monitor the effectiveness of the new regulations. In 2003, THRF hired an investigation agency to conduct another survey on the medicine bags. The result showed that nearly 30% of medicine bags still failed to meet the new standard.
To further investigate the issue, we hosted the event "Medicine bag Lottery" from November 2003 to January 2004, during which THRF invited the public to mail us recent medicine bags. In total, we had assembled 8,202 bags from 267 hospitals, 1,406 clinics and 333 pharmacies all around Taiwan. However the result was discouraging, only 5.1% of those medicine bags met the standard by DOH.
Public education plays an important part for our advocacy on the medicine bag improvement. The Taiwan Healthcare Reform Foundation raises the public awareness of the issue through public seminars, speeches, and various leaflet and online publications, the following are two main examples:
1. Promotion leaflet - "How to Understand the Drug Bag Information?" to the public.
2. Establishing "Medicine bag Monitoring Database" which provided updated progress or regress about the medicine bag reform to the public.