The world needs a free, high-quality, independent international formulary

Please find below the abstract of a paper from 2013 that closely supports previous arguments on HIFA that there should be a high-quality, independent international formulary, similar to the British National Formulary and freely available to all prescribers and users of medicines, on the internet, on mobile phones and as a free PDF download. Universal basic information on commonly prescribed medicines, identified by their generic name, would save many lives and reduce suffering.

We have discussed this with both the British National Formulary and the World Health Organization. We pointed out: “If money is an issue, we think we can help you get financial support for this, because we are convinced that a major funder such as the Gates Foundation can be persuaded of the need for such a formulary”. But so far we are not getting through. In the meantime, the HIFA Working Group on Information for Prescribers and Users of Medicines is planning a literature review and survey to assess the availability and use of information for prescribers in low-income countries – the results will assist us with future advocacy efforts.

CITATION: Int J Clin Pharm. 2013 Jun;35(3):386-92. doi: 10.1007/s11096-012-9744-x. Epub 2013 Mar 28.

Worldwide analysis of factors associated with medicines compendia publishing.

Arguello B, Fernandez-Llimos F.  [Full text is restricted access]


Background: Medicines compendia, also called formularies, are the most commonly used drug information source among health care professionals.

Objective: The aim was to identify the countries publishing medicines compendia and the socio-demographic factors associated to this fact. Additionally, we sought to determine the use of foreign compendia in countries lacking their own.

Setting: Global web-based survey.

Method: Healthcare practitioners and researchers from 193 countries worldwide were invited to complete a web-based survey. The questionnaire investigated the existence of a national compendium, or the use of foreign compendia in the absence of one. Demographic and socioeconomic variables were used to predict compendia publishing through a multivariate analysis.

Main outcome measure: Existence of national medicines compendia and foreign compendia used.

Results: Professionals from 132 countries completed the survey (response rate at a country level 68.4%, comprising 90.9% global population). Eighty-four countries (63.6%) reported publishing a medicines compendium. In the multivariate analysis, only two covariates had significant association with compendia publishing. Being a member of the Organisation for the Economic Cooperation and Development was the only variable positively associated with compendia publishing (OR = 37.5; 95% CI = 2.3:599.8). In contrast, the countries that listed French as an official language were less likely to publish a compendium (OR = 0.07; 95% CI = 0.007:0.585). Countries without national compendia reported using the British National Formulary most commonly, followed by the Dictionnaire Vidal.

Conclusion: Publication of medicines compendia is associated with socio-economic development. Countries lacking a national compendium, use foreign compendia from higher-income countries. Creating an international medicines compendium under the leadership of the World Health Organisation, rather than merely a ‘model’, would reduce the risks of using information sources not-adapted to the necessities of developing countries.


1. Medicines compendia are the most commonly used drug information source for health care professionals

2. There is a need for adapting medicines compendia to meet country development levels and national health care system requirements

3. The WHO Model Formulary is not sufficient for developing countries.

For more information on the HIFA Working Group on Information for Prescribers and Users of Medicines see:

Best wishes, Neil

Let’s build a future where people are no longer dying for lack of healthcare knowledge – Join HIFA:  


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s