October 17, 2020
Industry Veteran Dr Lynn Weekes on the RUM Project, her passion for medicine and what’s next in her career
Dr Lynn Weeks is a Pharmacist, a Quality Use of Medicines expert, a former CEO of NPS MedicineWise, and has sat on the board for the RUM Project since 2013.
You’ve had an extensive career in the pharma industry. What have some of the key highlights for you been?
I have enjoyed a range of roles during my career and all have consistently aimed to improve use of medicines in order to benefit individual patients and community as a whole. The highlight was undoubtedly being CEO at NPS MedicineWise for 20 years. It was a privilege to work with so many like-minded professionals to ensure everyone would achieve the best outcomes from their medicines. We were able to create a bridge across sectors so that health consumers, pharmacists and medical professionals could join in the same conversation and have access to the same information. Several themes emerged time and again during my time at NPS: that health professionals working with each other and with the patient provided the best care; that sometimes, the best therapy was not a medicine; that evidence-based medicine should always be tailored for the individual patient; and, that what we now call ‘deprescribing’ is an integral part of good therapeutics.
You’ve also worked tirelessly as a member of the RUM board. What have been your highlights working on the projects?
RUM and NPS started around the same time, both having their origins in the quality use of medicines movement. While I have been on the RUM Board, I have seen the organisation continue to innovate and seek new ways to fulfil its mandate. The volume of medicines collected and responsibly destroyed through the program has increased year on year and at the same time it has become more efficient and more environmentally friendly. The new bin, for example, improves safety by having a one-way entry lid and it is made from recycled materials. True to its QUM origins, RUM brings together stakeholders from a range of sectors: health consumers, pharmacy and medicine, pharmaceutical industry, environment protection and government. The collaboration ensures a robust service that protects the community at a very reasonable cost.
Where do you see the RUM project in 10 years? What would you dream be for the RUM project that hasn’t yet been fulfilled?
The RUM project will continue to innovate as that is part of its DNA. There are opportunities for RUM to work outside of the community setting, be it in aged care, disability, or other specialist services. The advantage of such an approach would be that as a nation we would know that all our pharmaceuticals are being destroyed in a safe and environmentally friendly way. The challenge is that services and sectors have diverse reporting lines and funding streams which make coordination of such a national approach a challenge.
What’s next for you in your career?
I have recently published a book entitled, Improving Use of Medicines and Medical Tests in Primary Care with several of my colleagues from NPS MedicineWise. I addition I have started to do some consulting work, with State governments, as well as some Pacific Island countries. It was been very rewarding to take some of the lessons from my career for improving use of medicines abroad but equally I have learnt as much if not more from working in these settings. Most recently I have been helping to build the membership base of an important new organisation, the International Society to Improve Use of Medicines which was formed by Australian and international experts in QUM. Sharing the work of RUM with this broader audience which has a focus on low- and middle -income countries will be an exciting new opportunity.