We have created a teaching resource in collaboration with Dr Lea Ann Dailey and colleagues at the Pharmacy Department at King’s College London (KCL). The resource allows schools to incorporate actual “science-into-practice” problems into the undergraduate MPharm course. RPS Chief Scientific Advisor Jayne Lawrence presented the project to a meeting of the Heads of Schools of Pharmacy, who encouraged the RPS to make the materials available for adoption by schools.
A project piloting the use of this resource was conducted during the 2009-2010 academic year in the KCL Pharmacy Department, culminating in the KCL Pharmacy Debate 2010. Student evaluations of the pilot were highly favourable, while the academic staff was very pleased with the levels of student involvement in and enthusiasm for the exercise.
The original driver for the project was the Science Committee of the Society, which realised that many pharmacy students and pre-registration pharmacists have difficulty connecting how the basic science they learn during their degree underpins their pharmacy practice.
Although KCL piloted the resource for its final year students, parts are suitable for students in the second and third year of the MPharm course. The materials could be part of a standalone course as at King’s; or relevant scenarios could be incorporated into established course modules as exemplars or assignments. The problems contained in the resource are actual examples of “science-into-practice” problems, which serve to illustrate to the students how their scientific training will be of importance in solving problems they may encounter in their every day practice as pharmacists. Many of the problems have an ethical dimension, which the students can debate. Here is an example:
Benzalkonium Chloride and Chlorhexidine Hydrochloride – Preservative Concentration
Mrs S asked what were the typical preservative concentrations used for benzalkonium chloride and chlorhexidine hydrochloride.
- Benzalkonium chloride is generally used as a preservative in the concentration range 0.01% to 0.005%, often with other preservatives or disodium edetate. 
- In eye drops, a chlorhexidine concentration of 0.01% is typical; concentrations of between 0.002% and 0.006% have been used in contact lens solutions. Depending on the formulation, between 0.5% and 4% have been used in preparations for skin disinfection. 
- The Handbook of Pharmaceutical Excipients [1,2] also cites tables of minimum inhibitory concentrations for these two agents against a range of organisms.
- Rowe RC, Sheskey PJ, Owen SC, editors. Pharmaceutical Press and American Pharmacists Association. Handbook of pharmaceutical excipients. 5th ed. London: Pharmaceutical Press, 2006:61-3.
- (Rowe RC, Sheskey PJ, Owen SC, editors. Pharmaceutical Press and American Pharmacists Association. Handbook of pharmaceutical excipients. 5th ed. London: Pharmaceutical Press, 2006:163-7.
Scenarios were drawn from practice queries that pharmacists had submitted to our Pharmaceutical Science Information Advisor, Colin Cable who selected a cross section of queries for the resource, and further developed a number of them into case studies. Colin and Lea Ann then developed supporting materials for use in the classroom.
An important part of the presentation of the materials at KCL involved a student debate on issues drawn from the practice scenarios. The following is an example.
Examples of KCL pharmacy debate scenarios 2009-10
You are a team of pharmacists in a hospital Medicines Information Centre. You have received a query from a community pharmacist who has received a prescription requiring an omeprazole suspension for a three year old child. This suspension is obtainable from a specialist manufacturer and the pharmacist has noted that the formulation contains chloroform as a preservative. The pharmacist is concerned whether this is an appropriate formulation to dispense as they are aware that chloroform has been banned as an excipient in several other countries.
Pro: Your team will argue that the omeprazole formulation can be dispensed to the patient.
Contra: Your team will argue that this is not an appropriate formulation for this patient.
You are a team of pharmacists in a hospital Medicines Information Centre. You have received a query from a paediatric pharmacist regarding a nine year old patient who has developed a serious case of meningitis. The clinical microbiologist has indicated that vancomycin is the drug of choice for this infection in this patient. For an unrelated medical condition, the patient has been fitted with an intrathecal pump delivering baclofen for the past year and continues to require this treatment. The paediatric team are proposing that the pharmacy aseptic unit prepare an admixture of vancomycin (10 mg/mL) with the baclofen (250 microgram/mL) to be added to the intrathecal pump reservoir (18 mL) for administration. The pump will be held at approximate body temperature (33-37°C) and the reservoir is usually replenished every 14 days.
Pro: Your team will argue in favour of the proposal from the paediatric team.
Contra: Your team will argue against the proposal from the paediatric team.