The Royal Women's Hospital of Melbourne has updated information previously published as two volumes ('Drugs and pregnancy' and 'Drugs and breastfeeding') to create this new, combined resource. It includes over 900 drugs available in Australia. This book is not a pocket-sized reference, however the ring-bound format means that it is easily left open on the desk.

Following the introduction and guidelines for use, the general medicines information section provides broad, but somewhat limited, details on selected pharmacotherapeutic classes. Substances of dependence are included here, but drugs with therapeutic indications possess individual monographs (for example, compare amphetamine with dexamphetamine). Interestingly, the topic of smoking is covered under the entry of nicotine.

Future volumes would be enhanced by expansion and referencing to pertinent sources in the bibliography located at the back. The table covering complementary and alternative medicines, though not exhaustive, is useful. An expanded version covering more herbal remedies had been included in the previous 'Drugs and pregnancy' edition, but this time implications for lactating mothers have been addressed.

Drugs are listed alphabetically. Preferences for arranging drug names tend towards their full description. For example, valproate is found under sodium valproate, rather than its parent acid and pharmacologically-active component. Abbreviations have been used throughout, but these are clearly explained in the 'Guidelines for use'.

This is a straightforward, no-nonsense reference tool that provides clear, succinct clinical information and advice on medications in respect of their use for pregnant and lactating women. The simplicity of presentation improves accessibility across health disciplines. Purists might decry the absence of detailed critical evaluation of significant trials, but this book is intended for health professionals requiring advice for immediate action. A brief perusal of the bibliography indicates references mostly sourced from the last decade with a clear attempt to be as up to date as possible for certain more sensitive topics, such as epilepsy.

In summary, a very useful, easily accessible tool, produced by an experienced team for health professionals faced with ever-increasing demands on their time.

David M Pache

Conjoint lecturer, School of Pharmacy, University of Queensland

Senior clinical pharmacist, Mater Pharmacy Services