Yashwant Sinha
Clinical research fellow
Centre for Kidney Research
The Children's Hospital at Westmead

This Australian Medicines Handbook dosing companion is Australia’s new national paediatric formulary, representing more than 10 years planning and development facilitated by the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council and the Paediatric Medicines Advisory Group. It aims to provide clear guidance for practitioners prescribing for children and to reduce variability in prescribing practices.

It provides dosing information for the most commonly used medicines in children in community and hospital practice, and includes neonates born at term up to children aged 18 years. It does not include dosing guidelines for premature infants or some medicines used in hospitals such as anaesthetics, normal human immunoglobulins and intravenous fluids.

This resource is for use on desktop computers, tablets and smartphones. It is arranged as an alphabetical list of drug monographs which may be searched using generic or brand names. Dosing guidelines are provided ‘per indication’ and ‘per dose’ with a maximum dose provided where possible. Sections outlining off-label use and practice points are included. There is a link to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), although all monographs include the statement ‘PBS restrictions may not pertain to children’. This is a little confusing as many PBS-listed medicines are not restricted by age.

General guidelines include principles of prescribing for children, common paediatric prescribing errors, off-label prescribing and prescribing in special situations. The appendices include the Australian Immunisation Handbook vaccination schedule and some useful algorithms for body surface area, resuscitation, topical corticosteroids and intraosseous injection technique. Lists of contact details for pharmaceutical companies and drug information centres in each state are provided.

Overall, the companion provides accurate, useful information to assist practitioners prescribing for children. It is of greatest practical value for children in the community, however the need for a paid subscription may limit uptake by prescribers. Use within tertiary paediatric settings would require a more complete list of medicines.