SAPC - Reference Sources
Following feedback from the profession, in July 2017 Council resolved to review the reference materials required in pharmacy premises in terms of the Rules relating to Good Pharmacy Practice. To this end, the SAPC conducted an online survey during October and November 2018, the results of which will be considered in conjunction with international benchmarking to assist the Practice Committee of Council to decide on a way forward.

Reference Material Survey: The profession speaks

In the previous edition of the ePharmaciae and through other communication channels, the South African Pharmacy Council made calls for the profession to participate in the Reference Material Survey as way of making input to the Rules relating to Good Pharmacy Practice. This survey was conducted from 5 October 2018 to 16 November 2018 and the response rate was 5% (1729 persons).

While a 5% response rate may generate some insight, the Practice Committee was of the view that it was insufficient to be used as a basis for making a definitive decision on reference sources required in pharmacy premises.

A majority of those who responded are of the view that the current list of reference material be kept unchanged. While the survey did not test pharmacy professionals’ attitudes towards the prescriptive nature of the current list of required references sources, initial benchmarking indicates that other countries adopted a generic list of sources without prescribing the names / brand of the source to be used.

Further interrogation of the survey data, as well as international benchmarking, is underway, which will advise Council in making an informed decision on keeping or amending the list. Initial reading of the benchmarking exercise, which is not yet complete, indicates that there is no a “one-size-fits-all” approach to reference sources. As such the Practice Committee will have to consider South Africa’s unique circumstances in line with best practice witnessed elsewhere to arrive at a decision on the rules relating to reference sources that must be available in a pharmacy. Below are some cases from elsewhere in the world.

International benchmarking: Some cases

In Iowa, United States of America, a pharmacy is required to maintain a reference library, which may be in printed format or accessible via a computer. The Iowa Pharmacy Board also requires of pharmacies to have access to current periodic updates for each of the reference sources in their reference library. As an illustration, the following are required in a pharmacy reference library:

  • A legal reference in one volume, that includes all state laws, rules and regulations affecting the pharmacy practice;
  • A patient information reference;
  • A drug interactions reference;
  • A general information reference;
  • A current drug equivalency reference;
  • A reference on natural or herbal medicines; and
  • A readily accessible telephone number of a poison control centre that serves the area.

In AUSTRALIA, pharmacists are required to have a list of reference resources prescribed by the Pharmacy Board of Australia. Non-compliance will result in disciplinary proceedings. The list includes:

  • The Australian Pharmaceutical
  • Formulary and Handbook (APF)
  • The Australian Medicines Handbook
  • Therapeutic Guidelines Series (the complete set in hardcopy), eTG or equivalent
  • A current paediatric reference available from an Australian source (including a teaching hospital)
  • A source of current Australian Product Information and Consumer Medicine Information, with a few prescriptive names provided
  • A Drug Interactions reference (updated at least quarterly) with a few prescriptive names provided
  • An evidence-based reference work on complementary and alternate medicines, Herbs and Natural Supplements with a few prescriptive names provided
  • The following can be accessed electronically via websites:
    • Copies of the legislation controlling the practice of pharmacy
    • The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act (the National Law) as in force in each state and territory

In BRITAIN, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) legislation does not stipulate what reference books should be made available in the pharmacy.  It is left to the discretion of the pharmacist in charge to decide what reference books must be in the pharmacy considering what other pharmacy organisations are recommending. The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) is the professional body for pharmacists and may recommend a list of reference sources to be available.  Since they are a membership organisation, their recommendations are only accessed by their members.

A similar legislative approach is practiced in Indiana, USA, where there are no prescriptive reference requirements. The regulations allow pharmacists in charge to use materials they deem necessary for their practice.


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