The Editorial Executive Committee welcomes letters, which should be less than 250 words. Before a decision to publish is made, letters which refer to a published article may be sent to the author for a response. Any letter may be sent to an expert for comment. When letters are published, they are usually accompanied in the same issue by their responses or comments. The Committee screens out discourteous, inaccurate or libellous statements. The letters are sub-edited before publication. Authors are required to declare any conflicts of interest. The Committee's decision on publication is final.

Letter to the Editor

Editor, – As a consumer of various prescription drugs I am concerned at the dispensing practices of some pharmacists with regard to exterior packaging of jars containing drugs.

For example, one of the drugs I regularly take is methotrexate which is packed into a small plastic jar, which is then packed inside a box. The extra packaging (that is, the box) is usually discarded and the jar containing the tablets is kept in the cabinet. What concerns me is that the pharmacist's label with the doctor's instructions for use is too often placed on the exterior box!

These are not blister packs, but jars within boxes. Other drugs I take that are dispensed in the same manner are leflunomide and calcium folinate. How many other drugs are dispensed in this manner?

Can you understand my concern regarding the possible mismanagement of drugs when labels are not present on jars? Is this standard practice for dispensing, or do the guidelines need to be reviewed?

Vivienne McCullagh
Kellyville, NSW

Author's comment

Ms Kerry Deans, Chief Executive Officer, Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, comments:

Pharmacists are required by State legislation to place dispensing labels on medicine containers which are usually understood to be the primary container. There are exceptions on some types of medicines, but I do not believe these are relevant in this case.

As you would be aware, there is also much other mandatory information (e.g. trade name, active ingredient name, dose form, strength, quantity, expiry date, warning statements and other regulatory requirements) that the manufacturer must provide on the original label on the container of prescription medicines.

There is a general expectation that pharmacists should not obscure any vital information on the manufacturer's label when affixing the pharmacy dispensing label. At times this presents a challenge, particularly with small containers, and pharmacists may opt to 'flag' the label (where part of the label is folded back onto itself) or place the label on the outer box or packaging.

In such cases it would be reasonable to expect the pharmacist to provide verbal reinforcement of the key messages as well as perhaps an explanation of why the dispensing label has not been placed on the primary container.

In some instances it may also be beneficial if the patient was able to communicate their preference to assist with safe and appropriate administration and quality use of medicines.