PCGs will be under considerable pressure to cut prescribing costs and obtain the best value for money from drugs.

There is already a network of drug information pharmacists in hospitals throughout the UK, promoting the safe, effective and economic use of medicines by providing independent, accurate information and advice on drugs and drug therapy.

Many of these centres have expanded their services into primary care and are providing a service to GPs and practice pharmacists.

Drug information centres will thus be able to help PCGs make the optimum choices of drug therapy, both directly to PCGs (GPs and pharmaceutical advisers) and indirectly via their contribution to the National Prescribing Centre and National Institute for

Clinical Excellence.

Services available can include: an enquiry service on drug therapy; evaluated information on new drugs and their place in therapy; drug comparisons to enable appropriate drug selection; formulary support to PCGs, GP practices, and local prescribing committees; current awareness service on drug therapy; liaison with local hospital pharmacies; and training in drug information for PCG and practice pharmacists.

Regional drug information centres, listed in the British National Formulary, will advise on local services.

David Hands

Principal pharmacist

South and West Drug Information Centre

Southampton

Julia Bowey

Prescribing adviser

Central Southampton primary care group