What is the AMH?
The Australian Medicines Handbook (AMH) is a project to develop a national formulary for Australia.1 This is a non- profit, collaborative venture between the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, the Australasian Society of Clinical and Experimental Pharmacologists and Toxicologists, and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia. The project was established with a seeding grant from both the Commonwealth Pharmaceutical Education Program and General Practice Branch of the Department of Health and Family Services in June 1995. Project headquarters are in Adelaide.

The AMH has several aims:

  • to enhance the quality use of medicines in Australia
  • to be an inexpensive, up-to-date, readily accessible source of independently produced, comparative drug information for health professionals
  • to be a foundation drug information text for teaching therapeutics to medical, pharmacy and other students. It will complement existing drug and therapeutic reference material including Australian Prescriber, the Australian Pharmaceutical Formulary and the publications produced by the Victorian Medical Postgraduate Foundation (now produced by Therapeutic Guidelines Ltd).

Preparation of the AMH is being undertaken by a small group of paid editorial staff. The content will be reviewed by an Editorial Advisory Board and national peer review.

The AMH will have a number of features which will enhance its user appeal and utility and distinguish it from other references such as Martindale, the Australian Pharmaceutical Formulary, the Australian Prescription Products Guide and MIMS publications.

The AMH will be easy to read and use and will be available in printed (pocket size) and electronic versions. It will contain:

  • concise and practical drug information relevant to the daily needs of medical practitioners, pharmacists and students (e.g. listings under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), drugs in pregnancy, drug interactions, dosage, adverse effects)
  • comparative information for drugs within classes and between classes
  • practice points and treatment considerations reflecting current Australian practice
  • tabulated ancillary information (e.g. drug interactions, pharmacokinetic tables, PBS availability)
  • multiple indexes (PBS, generic name, brand name)

The AMH will not:

  • be restricted to approved product information
  • contain pharmaceutical product or industry advertising
  • be subject to government or industry approval

Printed and electronic versions of the AMH will be prepared using database publishing techniques. The AMH database will be able to produce the drug and therapeutic text, lists of drugs, adverse effects and drug interactions, and a range of tabulated information.

The database is unique in comprising data in text and component (computer understandable) form as well as having a controlled vocabulary obtained from standard sources. These features will also make it a useful data source for a variety of medical information applications such as computerised prescribing.

The AMH will be divided into sections, the largest being chapters of drug information such as 'Drugs for cardiovascular disorders'. The drug information chapters will include data for all prescription drugs available in Australia. Drug monographs will contain detailed information.

Proposed content of AMH drug monographs




Special considerations

  • coexisting conditions
  • organ impairment - renal, hepatic
  • elderly
  • children
  • pregnancy and lactation
  • drug interactions



Adverse effects

Additional information

  • administration instructions (e.g. intravenous
    administration technique)
  • cautionary and advisory labelling
  • patient education

Products available

  • form, strength, brand name, pack sizes,
    description, PBS availability, availability of
    consumer product information, cost (expressed as $ per DDD)

General principles, general information common to certain drug classes and comparative data describing important clinical differences between drugs within groups will be included in the AMH. In addition to class and individual drug monographs, chapters will contain practical information to assist prescribers in the rational and economic selection, and safe use of drugs. Algorithms, flow charts and tables providing brief advice on who to treat, when to treat and how to treat will be included for selected conditions. Numerous appendices will contain tabulated information for adverse effects, drug interactions, drugs in pregnancy and lactation, pharmacokinetic parameters, cautionary and advisory labels and other useful data. Lists of generic and corresponding brand names, brand names with corresponding generic names, and PBS schedule information will also be included.

Frequency of publication

The printed version of the AMH will be updated twice a year and completely revised over a two year cycle. Updates to the electronic version will be available more frequently. The cost of an annual subscription (2 x printed copies per year) is estimated at approximately $100. The first edition will be published in late 1997 or early 1998.


Gary M.H. Misan

Executive Editor, Australian Medicines Handbook, Adelaide