Beyond the pharmacy window… a visit to the Medicines Information Service

Pharmacy green cross
Credit: Elliot Brown, flickr

I was very excited to go ‘behind the scenes’ of the hospital pharmacy to visit the Medicines Information team, to learn about what they do and the services they offer. Much of the work Medicines Information (MI) do is in a similar vein to the literature searches we do in the library, but a lot is very different too.

It is part of UKMI, and as such have to meet certain standards – for example, it holds a minimum requirement of references needed to be MI department, such as British National Formularies and other reference texts.

MI support best use of medicines by providing evidence-based information and advice to prescribers, patients and carers. They receives a whole range of medicines related enquiries, from doctors, nurses, GPs, community workers, social workers, service users, carers and the general public. In fact, they get an average of 100 enquiries per month! Most of the things they get asked about include safety in pregnancy and breastfeeding, drugs of choice in cardiac disease, or drug interactions, among others. They keep a log of these queries to avoid duplication of effort, and these records must be kept for a long time – 25 years for anything about pregnancy!

The queries they get generally have two sides to them; a literature review to examine the existing evidence, and information about the drug(s), such as side effects, interactions, etc. These literature reviews are similar to the ones we do in the library, though are a lot more specific to particular drugs, and in fact we have sometimes done searches to verify what they have found for peace of mind!

As well as enquiries, MI are also involved in writing local guidelines and policies, incorporating best evidence from literature searches, such as NICE guidelines or Maudsley Prescribing Guidelines in Psychiatry. They are working on getting prescribers on board to co-write as a team effort.

Visiting the MI service was fascinating. The work they do is so important and such a responsibility – they are advising doctors, not just giving them information. It was clear that MI is a very important service as there is very little going on that doesn’t involve MI to some extent. It was also useful to see that literature searching overlaps a little bit between our services. If I get a literature search that’s about a drug, it might be more appropriate to pass it to MI, which is useful to know.

It’s always interesting to see departments and teams you wouldn’t normally find out about. How many people can say they’ve been behind the scenes of a pharmacy!

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