• The learning objectives for this module are:

    • Differentiate between types of resources available to assist in answering medicines information enquiries.
    • Describe general electronic and hard copy resources available to assist in answering medicines information enquiries.
    • Explain the function and use of bibliographic databases, including Medline® and Embase®
    • Outline search strategies and functionalities in bibliographic databases.
    • Identify drug information databases to assist in answering medicines information enquiries.
    • Identify factors to consider in assessing the quality of internet resources available for accessing medicines information.
    • Outline other resources available to assist in answering medicines information enquiries.

    Accreditation number for this module: S2019/91

    This activity has been accredited for 1.5 hours of Group-1 CPD (or 1.5 CPD credits), suitable for inclusion in an individual pharmacist’s CPD plan.


    The program addresses pharmacist competency standards, including:


    Standard 5.3.1 Identify information needs and resource requirements

    Standard 5.3.2 Retrieve relevant information/evidence in a timely manner

    Standard 5.3.3 Apply research evidence into practice

    (National Competency Standards Framework for Pharmacists in Australia, 2016)

  • A search strategy is the order in which you search information resources. It helps make sure that you use the most appropriate resources to answer the enquiry. Very simple enquiries may only require you to consult one or two resources (e.g. what is the dose of pantoprazole for a gastric ulcer?) whereas more complex enquiries may require the use of many resources (e.g. what is the dose of intrapleural gentamicin for empyema?).

    Experience will help you learn which resources are most helpful for each type of enquiry. If you are working in MI, your in-house database is always a good place to start. If the enquiry has been answered recently it could save you a lot of time and energy.

    It is usually appropriate to start with general resources, such as the product information, AMH, Therapeutic Guidelines, Martindale and Micromedex first. You may not need to use Medline or Embase for relatively easy enquiries and doing so may be an unnecessary use of your time.

    Search strategies can vary between individuals and workplaces depending on personal preferences and resources available. Here is an example of a search strategy for an enquiry about enteral administration from a MI centre in an Australian hospital:

    1. Product information
    2. Don’t Rush to Crush
    3. Micromedex
    4. Medline/Embase
    5. Compounding pharmacist
    6. APF

    Knowing when to stop searching is an important skill to learn.

    Finish when you are absolutely certain that you haven't missed anything that would change your response, i.e. you're confident that your search has been exhaustive within the limits of the time, skills and access to resources available to you.

    There is a comprehensive list of search strategies in Section 5.3 of the Medicines Information Procedure Manual.

    Read the following examples and then try the exercise.

    Example 1

    A junior doctor calls you to ask: “Can sodium-glucose co-transporter 2 inhibitors cause hyperkalaemia?”

    Firstly check:

    • Australian product information
    • AMH
    • Specialist adverse drug reaction textbooks/databases (e.g. Meyler’s Side Effects of Drugs)

    If you don’t find the information to answer your enquiry consider:

    • Martindale
    • AHFS
    • DRUGDEX (in Micromedex)

    If you still haven’t found enough information try:

    • Medline
    • Embase
    • Reactions Weekly (a specialist ADR rapid-alert journal).

    Recognised adverse effects for established drugs usually only require that you check first-line resources, especially if the enquirer only wants a yes or no answer.  If the adverse effect is unusual, the drug is relatively new or if you need more in-depth information (such as incidence or information about management), then you may need to proceed further through your strategy.

    Example 2

    A paediatric oncology pharmacist calls into your office to ask you about the interaction between posaconazole and ciclosporin. There is a child on the bone marrow transplant unit who is currently on both drugs but has suffered an adverse reaction to the ciclosporin and needs to discontinue it. How will this affect the posaconazole levels, if at all?

    Firstly check:

    • Australian product information
    • AMH
    • MIMS or AusDI drug interactions 

    If you don’t find the information to answer your enquiry consider:

    • Stockley’s Drug Interactions
    • Top 100 drug interactions (Hansten & Horn)
    • Micromedex Drug interactions

    If you still haven’t found enough information try:

    • Medline
    • Embase.


    A gastroenterologist telephones you to ask about the safety of infliximab in pregnancy. A patient with Crohn’s disease has received several doses of infliximab over the last month and has just found out she is 10 weeks pregnant.

    What resources would you check first?

    Show answer

    Australian product information, AMH, RWH Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Guide.

    If you didn’t find an answer, where would you look next?

    Show answer

    REPRORISK in Micromedex, Briggs Drugs in Pregnancy and Lactation (Briggs).

    And if you still needed more information?

    Show answer

    Medline, Embase.

    Other resources