National Medicines Policy

The National Medicines Policy - A partnership for better health outcomes

Page last updated: 20 March 2019

Australia's National Medicines Policy is a cooperative endeavour to bring about better health outcomes for all Australians, focusing especially on people’s access to, and wise use of, medicines. The term “medicine” includes prescription and non-prescription medicines, including complementary healthcare products.

About the National Medicines Policy

Launched in December 1999, the National Medicines Policy (NMP) is a well-established endorsed framework based on partnerships between Governments (- Commonwealth, States and Territories -) health educators, health practitioners, and other healthcare providers and suppliers, the medicines industry, healthcare consumers, and the media working together to promote:
  • quality care responsive to people’s needs;
  • incentives for preventive health and cost effective care;
  • better value for taxpayers’ dollars;
  • more clearly defined roles and responsibilities; and
  • continued universal access to basic health services through Medicare.


In 1985, the World Health Organisation called a Conference of Experts on the Rational Use of Drugs, which resulted in a document known as the 'Revised Drug Strategy'. The 39th World Health Assembly, held in 1986, adopted this strategy, which calls on governments to implement a National Medicinal Drug Policy. Australia, as a participant at this assembly, contributed to the development of this strategy. The need for a National Medicinal Drug Policy was further illustrated in the 'Health for All Australians' document issued jointly by all Australian Health Ministers in 1988.

In 1991 the Australian Pharmaceutical Advisory Council (APAC) was formed. APAC represented an opportunity for all interested parties to contribute positively on a multi-lateral and consensus basis to the development and conduct of this policy.

Policies were developed and implemented over several years, with a further major review during 1999. In late 1999 the revised policy was launched with whole-of-government support.


The National Medicines Policy aims to improve positive health outcomes for all Australians through their access to and wise use of medicines.

The Policy in Action

The NMP has four central objectives based on active and respectful partnerships, taking into account elements of social and economic policy.
These central objectives, also referred to as the four pillars of the National Medicines Policy are:
  • timely access to the medicines that Australians need, ata cost individuals and the community can afford;
  • medicines meeting appropriate standards of quality, safety and efficacy;
  • quality use of medicines; and
  • maintaining a responsible and viable medicines industry.
A detailed explanation of each of the four pillars is provided in the National Medicines Policy.