Administration of medicines: Information sources

Last updated: Tuesday, July 12, 2022

The BNF and SmPCs are good places to start for most straightforward administration questions. The BNF will show you the range of dosage forms available, and the SmPC will give detailed advice about administration. For enquiries specific to children, start with the BNF for Children. Many SmPCs are on the electronic medicines compendium, but you may also have to use the MHRA website or that of the European Medicines Agency. If you're unfamiliar with all the features of the emc then we have a learning module about it here.

Your Trust or other employer will have local policies and procedures related to the administration of medicines, particularly injections. Be familiar with the basic content of these documents and know how to find them.

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Many healthcare organisations use the Injectable Medicines Guide to help ensure the safe administration of intravenous medicines. The tutorial on injection compatibility will also assist you in managing enquiries on this topic. If you're asked specifically about administering medicines to patients who are fluid-restricted then the UKCPA Critical Care Group's guidance on Minimum Infusion Volumes is one of the first resources to check.

For questions about extravasation, evidence is often lacking but a good starting point is the Cardiff and Vale Treatment Summary. If you are asked about extravasation of chemotherapy, then consult your Trust’s policy. Try to have familiarised yourself with these resources before you need them, as extravasation enquiries are always urgent.

For help with administering drugs through enteral feeding tubes try Drug Administration via Enteral Feeding Tubes (Pharmaceutical Press) and the NEWT Guidelines. These sources can differ in the advice they give, so ideally you should check both. You'll need a username and password to log into either site. Don't forget Stockley's Drug Interactions for interactions between enteral feeds and medicines.

For patients with swallowing difficulties who don't have an enteral feeding tube, SPS has a range of guidance.

The UKCPA's Handbook of Perioperative Medicines provides guidance on managing your patient's medicines around surgery. As above, use this with any local policies your Trust may have.

If you think you might need to recommend the use of a 'special' medicine, then the RPS have produced guidance on the prescribing of specials which can help your decision-making.

Trying to establish exactly where drugs are absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract is notoriously difficult. However, pharmacology textbooks can be a good starting point, as can SmPCs (look at section 5). Manufacturers' medical information departments may be able to help with these questions, and others related to administration of medicines.

Be careful about conducting a general internet search on questions about administration of medicines. If you do, you may like to look at our brief guide to evaluating websites about medicines.

Presenting your answer 

Once you’ve asked sufficient questions, gathered the information required and assessed it, you’ll need to provide an answer. We can offer you some general guidance on answering clinical problems.