Rational prescribing: the principles of drug selection

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Prescribing is the most important tool used by physicians to cure illness, relieve symptoms and prevent future disease. It is also a complex intellectual task that requires formulation of an appropriate treatment regimen from the many thousands available, taking into account the infinite variation in the patients they encounter. Unfortunately, the selection of a medicine and dosage regimen is sometimes suboptimal, leading to poor patient outcomes (eg treatment failure, avoidable adverse reactions). This article will highlight some of the common prescribing errors and will develop a rational approach that includes making a diagnosis, estimating prognosis, establishing the goals of therapy, selecting the most appropriate treatment and monitoring the effects of the treatment.

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