, Volume 52, Issue 6, pp 429-435

Structure and activities of hospital drug committees in Germany

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Objectives: Hospital drug committees have been established to ensure rational drug use. However, with regard to their structure and duties remarkable differences between European countries may exist, reflecting the differences in drug legislation and market. Our aim was to obtain information about the structure, present activities and decision-making processes of hospital drug committees in Germany and especially the role of clinical pharmacologists in these committees.

Methods: In 1995, a questionnaire with 36 items was designed and sent to all 450 hospitals in Germany with more than 400 beds. One hundred forty three returned questionnaires were evaluated.

Results: According to hospital size, the median value for the annual drug budget (including the cost of blood and blood-derived products) in 1993 ranged between DM 2.4 million for hospitals with less than 500 beds and DM 30.0 million for university hospitals with more than 1 000 beds. In 53.2% of drug committees, a pharmacist holds the position of chairman, followed by medical specialists (32%); (clinical) pharmacologists hold this position in only 7.7% of the general hospitals, but in almost 50% of the university hospitals. In most cases, all clinical specialities are represented in the drug committee, the number of members ranging between 5 and 40 (median 12). The number of drugs included in the internal drug list, ranging between 400 in hospitals with <500 beds and about 700 in university hospitals, strongly correlated with the number of beds and, interestingly, with the number of drug committee members. Treatment guidelines were implemented mainly for anti-infectives (87%), infusion solutions (30%), anti-emetic drugs (5-HT3-receptor antagonists, 27%) and blood and blood-derived products such as intravenous immunoglobulins (23%). However, effective control of these guidelines was only performed in about 50% of the hospitals. A drug information service was provided in most hospitals, where 95% of queries were answered by pharmacists.

Conclusion: The results of our survey showed that German hospital drug committees vary considerably with regard to their function and control mechanisms of drug use. Most of the responders would appreciate a more intensive exchange of current problems and treatment guidelines. Although the process of pharmacotherapeutic decision making should be supported by clinical pharmacologists, experts in this field are often not involved in German hospital drug committees.

Received: 16 December 1996 / Accepted in revised form: 10 April 1997