• Many hospitals in Australia offer a Medicines Information service, usually for the purposes of supporting hospital staff and patients. Some MI services offer assistance to external health professionals and consumers. 

    Pharmaceutical companies usually provide a service for enquiries about their products, as this helps them to fulfill their legal pharmacovigilance and reporting obligations, however the scope of enquiries that they are able to accept may be limited. 

    A contact list of MI services in Australia is available on the SHPA website.

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      These materials have been reproduced and communicated to you by or on behalf of The Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia pursuant to Part VB of the Copyright Act 1968 (the Act).

      This content is protected by copyright laws. Unauthorised use, reproduction or sharing of any part of this content without prior written permission is strictly prohibited.  Any further reproduction or communication of this content by you may be the subject of copyright protection under the Act.

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        What do Medicines Information services do?

        The main role of a Medicines Information service or Medicines Information pharmacist is to respond to medicine-related enquiries. Medicines Information (MI) pharmacists have the skills to gather and appraise information to respond appropriately to enquirer’s questions. Information provided must be reliable, accurate, up to date and based on the best possible evidence. Medicines information practice requires excellent critical thinking skills and contributes to clinical problem solving for clinicians and patients.

        Most enquiries to MI services come from pharmacists, doctors, nurses, dentists and other health professionals, but may also include police, journalists, lawyers, authors, librarians, patients and carers. It is essential to understand what your service can provide in case you need to refer an enquiry/enquirer to another service.

        MI services keep documentation of their enquiries in a database. These databases form an invaluable source of information for future enquiries and are essential for legal reasons.

        MI services may also provide, participate in or assist with:

        • Adverse drug reaction reporting (pharmacovigilance)
        • Clinical trials/ethics committees
        • Drugs and Therapeutics Committees (or equivalent)
        • Electronic decision support, clinical informatics
        • Formulary management
        • Medication-related audits
        • Medication safety
        • Partnerships with local and national organisations or committees
        • Therapeutic drug monitoring
        • Education and training
        • Medico-legal
        • Publications and reviews
        • Research
        • Support for other services or healthcare professionals.

        MI services conduct quality assurance programs to provide systematic ongoing review of the work of the service with the aim of improving the standards. More information about the work of MI services including quality assurance can be found in Chapter 10 of SHPA’s Medicines Information Procedure Manual.

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          Common types of enquiries

          Dose and administration
          Questions about the use of medicines and methods of administration including in special populations (e.g pregnancy, breastfeeding, neonates, renal impairment, enteral feeding tubes, nil by mouth)

          Adverse drug reactions, drug interactions and toxicity
          Advice about identifying, preventing and managing medicine-related harm.

          Advice on how to obtain medicines, manage supply shortages and source imported medicines.

          Choice of therapy
          The selection of medicines in a particular disease or for a particular patient and advice about contraindications or precautions.

          Identification of medicines including foreign drugs, drugs in development, and tablet identification.

          Compatibility, dose modification, stability, quality control, formulation, excipients, biopharmaceutics.

          Pharmacology and pharmacokinetics
          Therapeutic drug monitoring, absorption, metabolism and elimination profile, mechanism of action, adverse effects and interactions.

          Requests for general information about a medicine or a comparison of similar medicines.

          Complementary and alternative medicines
          Identification, evidence for safety and efficacy, effect on disease states and interaction with conventional medicines and treatments such as surgery and radiotherapy.

          Substance misuse
          Identification, safety and interactions.

          Legal requirements
          Questions about the law relating to medicines and prescribing, e.g. prescribing of restricted substances.

          Many enquiries will include multiple questions and encompass more than one of the categories above.

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            History of Medicines Information

            Medicines information services are mainly operated by pharmacists and their services are aimed predominantly at healthcare professionals. The first organisation dedicated to providing information about drugs and chemicals was the poison center established in Chicago, USA, in 1953. Poisons Information Centres became established throughout the world and these led to the introduction of Medicines Information Services. In Australia, the first Medicines Information Centre was established at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Victoria in 1968. More information about the history of MI can be found in SHPA’s Medicines Information Procedure Manual.

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              The Australian Medicines Information Procedure Manual

              The Australian Medicines Information Procedure Manual provides information about the resources and skills required to establish, operate and maintain an MI service. Published by the Society of Hospital Pharmacists and written by members with expertise in the specialty practice of medicines information, it is an essential resource for pharmacists wishing to work in the area of medicines information.

              Areas covered include:

              • guidelines for establishing an MI service
              • responsibilities and services offered
              • guidance for training including advanced practice and competencies
              • guidelines for practice
              • bibliographic databases
              • quality assurance and service improvement.

              The procedure manual offers further information on subjects introduced in this online training course including:

              • information resources required
              • clinical trials and critical evaluation
              • ethical and legal issues.

              Click here to download the procedure manual.

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                Other Medicines Information resources

                Medicines Information is one of 30 Specialty Practice streams available for SHPA members to join. Specialty practice streams provide access to a national network of professionals and peer learning opportunities. 

                MI Q& A is an initiative of the Medicines Information Leadership Committee. Each issue provides a summary of topics that are frequently encountered in Medicines Information centres and/or are matters of current clinical importance. Often complex topics are distilled into easily understood and time-saving newsletter-style publications, four times per year. Read the issues below as you make your way through the modules in EMIT.