Drug formulary decision-making: Ethnographic study of 3 pharmacy and therapeutics committees

Gordon D. Schiff*, Jaya B. Tripathi, William Galanter, Jamie L. Paek, Pam Pontikes, John Fanikos, Lina Matta, Bruce L. Lambert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


We recorded discussions and conducted an analysis of the transcripts from the 3 P&T committees for a 1-year period. We examined the content and ideas expressed during deliberations and synthesized themes to give a broader picture of the issues arising. Committee discussions were transcribed and the segments of each meeting that addressed any new formulary additions were then analyzed. Using constant comparison method, we generated a series of topic codes to characterize and classify that portion of the discussion. Results. At 26 meetings across the 3 sites, 24 new drug formulary additions were discussed. A total of 1,093 discussion segments were identified and mapped to 7 broad categories related to discussion of evidence of need, efficacy/indications, safety, misuse potential, cost issues, committee decision-making issues, and discussion related to operationalizing use and implementation at the local institution. Overall, the leading category of discussion was efficacy/indications followed by evidence of need, operational issues, and cost issues, with some variation by site. The committees devoted substantially greater portions of their discussion to the logistics of using the drugs in their institutions than they did safety issues. We identified wide variations in specific drugs being considered and the relative amount of time devoted to various issues related to these drugs being discussed. We found discussions generally did not follow a systematic, standardized, rigorous, and reproducible approach. Discussions tended to be more idiosyncratic, individualized, varying from drug to drug, and at times devoted to a variety of tangential issues raised by committee members. Conclusion. P&T committee discussions at all 3 sites tended to be idiosyncratic and individualized, varying from drug to drug, and at times devoted to a variety of issues more tangentially raised by committee members. All spent less time talking about drug safety, in each case roughly half the time that they devoted to discussions of efficacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)537-542
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Health-System Pharmacy
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 8 2019


  • P&T committees
  • decision-making
  • drug cost
  • ethnography
  • formulary
  • medication safety

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Pharmacy
  • Pharmacology


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