Although we have the British National Formulary (BNF), many hospitals or health districts have made their own drug formularies which list selected or preferred drugs available to prescribers. In a recent survey of a random sample representative of readers of Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin, over half of those responding said they used a formulary; 66% of those who did not said it was because no formulary existed. Some formularies have detailed prescribing information; others merely list the available drugs. A number of formularies also exist for use in general practice. Formularies aim to encourage rational, effective and safe prescribing and to limit extravagance by including drugs recommended by the local specialists for local use. In hospitals, formulary drugs are usually the only ones stocked and therefore immediately available. The Department of Health has recently instructed District Health Authorities (DHAs) to plan for the introduction of a “full formulary system” by 1990.1 Are local formularies useful and worth the time and cost they take to produce?
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