Medicines information centre heads for a quarter century of service

23 February 2004

The Medicines Information Centre (MIC) is a unit in the Division of Pharmacology at UCT that provides drug information to all healthcare professionals in South Africa and beyond.

Established in 1980, the MIC forms part of a World Health Organisation collaborating centre. Its mission is to research and provide information and expert assistance on all matters pertaining to the rational use of medicines in southern Africa, thereby promoting the health of its people.

With access to the latest information databases and clinical consultants from the university, Groote Schuur Hospital, Red Cross Children's Hospital and other national and international experts, the centre is able to give unbiased, up-to-date and well-researched information.

Staffed by three experienced drug information pharmacists, the MIC uses a variety of resources. In order to sustain a service of the highest standard, all queries and responses are discussed daily at a peer review meeting. All queries are documented, referenced and stored for five years.

Information is provided relating to applied therapeutics, drug interactions, HIV/AIDS, drug use in porphyria, pregnancy and lactation, pharmacokinetics, psychopharmacology, malaria prophylaxis and treatment, clinically important adverse drug reactions, pharmaceutics, the availability of South African and overseas medicines and drug use in special risk groups.

The MIC answered 7 527 queries in 2001, 6 031 in 2002 and 6 173 during 2003.

The centre, situated in Groote Schuur's Old Main Building, will run an HIV/AIDS hotline for the Provincial Administration of the Western Cape (PAWC) from March 1 for public sector health professionals, as well as a training programme for both private and public sector health care professionals.

Although the centre in general does not provide a service to lay people, they do provide a public information line where advice is given to health professionals, parents and athletes as to what medicines are banned, restricted and permitted in sport. The line is run for the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport. (Contact number: (021) 448-3888.) The centre operates Monday to Friday from 08h30 to 17h00.

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