What legal and pharmaceutical issues should be considered when administering medicines covertly?

Samantha Owen, Principal Pharmacist Critical Evaluation and UKMi Medicines Q&A Lead, Southampton Medicines Advice Service, University Hospital of Southampton NHS Foundation TrustPublished Last updated See all updates

Covert administration of medicines is a complex issue and involves disguising the administration of a medicine (e.g. in food or drink) to a patient lacking the capacity to consent to treatment. This Medicines Q&A discusses some of the legal issues that need to be considered before medicines are given covertly. It also addresses some of the pharmaceutical issues (e.g. absorption, incompatibility, interactions, safety of crushing tablets) and patient factors (e.g. acceptability) that need to be considered when deciding whether to administer medicines in this way.

Update November 2020: this Q&A is in the process of being fully reviewed and updated. In the interim, please use with caution and do not rely on the current document as a sole source of information.

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