Our organisation

BNF Publications are published jointly by the British Medical Association and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. They are independent resources that do not market medicines.

Our publications evaluate clinical evidence from diverse sources with information validated by a network of clinical experts and published under the authority of a Joint Formulary Committee. The BNF Publications content databases are used to publish all versions of the BNF, including our books, apps, and the online version of our publications on MedicinesComplete. For further help and support see https://www.medicinescomplete.com/about/help.htm

BNF Publications reflect current best practice as well as legal and professional guidelines relating to the uses of medicines. Content includes:

  • Guidance on the drug management of common conditions
  • Details of medicines with special reference to their uses, cautions, contra-indications, side-effects, doses, and relative costs
  • Guidance on prescribing, monitoring, dispensing, and administering medicines

The BNF is a direct descendant of the National War Formulary, in which the titles of the preparations were in Latin and the doses in minims and grains. In 1939, the minister for health appointed a committee to prepare a wartime formulary to contain a “selection of medicaments sufficient in range to meet ordinary requirements of therapeutics”.

When the war ended, it was the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the British Medical Association that wanted to continue publication of a formulary for general use. Therefore, the BNF was born.

The first edition was published in 1949; an overhauled version of the formulary launched in 1981. Since then, a new book has been published every 6 months, with the cover colour changing for each edition.

The first edition of the BNF for Children was published in September 2005 and since then a new book has been published annually.

Today, BNF products are used by healthcare professionals in the UK and abroad, and it has been translated into several languages including Italian, Spanish, Turkish and Polish.

How is the BNF funded?

The BNF is entirely funded from sales made by the joint publishers, the BMJ Group and Pharmaceutical Press. The great bulk of sales are of the printed version and made to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence for distribution within the NHS in England and to the Departments of Health for distribution within the NHS in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. The publishers also sell the publication in both printed and electronic formats in the UK and the rest of the world.

Our sources

BNF Publications bring authoritative, independent guidance on best practice together with clinically validated drug information.

BNF Publications use the following sources:

  • Summaries of product characteristics (SPCs). The principal source of product information, for new and existing drugs.
  • Consensus guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC), and the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN).
  • Systematic reviews databases (including the Cochrane Library)
  • Medical and pharmaceutical journals, research papers and reviews relating to drug therapy.
  • Expert advisers.
  • Reference sources such as Martindale: The Complete Drug Reference.
  • Statutory information
    • Statutory Instruments and regulations affecting Prescription only
    • Medicines Order
    • Home Office (in relation to controlled drug regulations)
    • Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (including the British Pharmacopoeia Commission).
    • Safety warnings issued by the Commission on Human Medicines (CHM)
    • Drug Tariff
    • Scottish Drug Tariff
    • Northern Ireland Drug Tariff
  • Pricing information. Provided by the NHS Prescription Services (from the NHS Business Services Authority).

Our process

BNF Publications follow a rigorous editorial process, to ensure information is correct, up-to-date, and reflects recent best practice. Our editorial team come from a variety of practice-based backgrounds and have a sound understanding of how drugs are used in clinical practice.

The BNF uses the following process:

  • We compare information in SPCs with similar existing drugs, and consult manufacturers or expert advisers if information is different from the expected patterns, or problems or omissions are identified – changes related to doses receive extra validation steps;
  • We seek independent data on drugs, in particular their use in various patient populations, such as pregnancy;
  • We review guidelines and published articles in journals to summarise existing recommendations around drug use and create additional recommendations where necessary;
  • Complex or contentious changes are passed to expert advisers for comment and then presented to the Joint Formulary Committee and/or the Paediatric Formulary Committee for consideration;
  • Where necessary we peer-review the content through our consultations page;
  • We aim to review all published content over a 3- to 4- year rolling review period;

Our content is overseen by the following bodies:

  • The BNF is produced under the authority of a Joint Formulary Committee (JFC) that comprises pharmacy, medical, nursing and lay representatives, as well as representation from UK health departments, national guideline providers, and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The JFC is responsible for overseeing the content of the BNF, and it reviews amendments to the BNF in the light of new evidence and expert advice.
  • BNFC is produced under the authority of a Paediatric Formulary Committee (PFC) that comprises pharmacy, medical and nursing representatives with a paediatric background and lay representatives who have worked with children or acted as a carer of a paediatric patient, as well as representation from the Department of Health for England, and the MHRA. The PFC is responsible for overseeing the content of BNFC and reviews amendments to BNFC in the light of new evidence and expert advice.
  • The Nurse Prescribers’ Formulary for Community Practitioners (NPF) is created from content derived from the British National Formulary, with nursing specific considerations addressed by the Nurse Prescribers’ Advisory Group (NPAG) that comprises representatives of the Royal College of Nursing, the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association, the Nursing and Midwifery council, UK health departments, and several practicing nurse prescribers from different specialities.
  • A Dental Advisory Group (DAG) that includes representatives of the British Dental Association and UK health departments, oversees the preparation of advice in the BNF on the drug management of dental and oral conditions, and also advises UK health ministers on the list of preparations (found in the BNF) that may be prescribed by dental practitioners.

Our objectives

The ISO9001:2008 Quality Management System covers the management, validation and processing of medicines information to produce BNF products and services through a range of delivery channels to customers.

Policy statement

  • BNF Publications provides healthcare professionals with authoritative and practical information on the selection and clinical use of medicines in a clear, concise, and accessible manner.
  • We validate and then assess medicines information to create practical knowledge which can be used to promote and support the safe and effective use of medicines.
  • We recognise that implementing good working practices and processes is integral to delivering safe and useful products and services.
  • BNF Publications has adopted and implemented a Management System which is designed to meet and comply with the requirements of ISO9001:2008 and all other legal and professional requirements. The intranet-based (SharePoint) process and procedures define the systems and controls which must be used throughout the organisation.
  • We review our objectives and continually improve our System to enhance the effectiveness of our published content.
  • We communicate this policy to everybody involved in the construction of BNF Publications using the intranet and company meetings, and to our customers through our public communications channels (such as our website).

Quality objectives

  • We maintain and review a list of approved resources; evaluating the information in a timely manner to ensure that the content remains comprehensive and relevant.
  • On identification of any errors, explicit remedial action is taken as defined for each category of error. Procedures are then amended to prevent future occurrence of errors, thus maintaining accuracy and minimising clinical harm.
  • BNF Publications aim to produce regular reliable publications throughout the year and online monthly updates on MedicinesComplete.
  • We hold regular quarterly or bi-annual meetings with our network of clinical advisors (the Joint Formulary Committee, the Dental Advisory Group, Paediatric Formulary Committee) to ensure that medicines advice is practical and useful in clinical practice.
  • We actively solicit and try to implement feedback from customers (such as virtual user groups and market research) according to the Annual Marketing Plan.
  • We aim to ensure that the objectives of the audit programme are met and management review takes place at regular intervals as defined in our operating procedures. We conduct an annual review of communications, legal and regulatory requirements as a minimum.