Workload pressure on pharmacies through increased demands for parenteral nutrition (PN) is leading to a growing trend in the use of commercially manufactured PN (‘standard feeds’) and away from individually ‘tailored’ prescriptions. This is sometimes justified on grounds of safety, although many areas of risk remain inherent in the process of PN provision. In fact there is little to suggest that widespread introduction of standard feeds would do much to further reduce the already low frequency of serious adverse events. The relative clinical benefits of providing standard feeds or tailored feeds have not been adequately studied, making it impossible to give a clear endorsement of one system over the other. It seems probable that for a proportion of stable patients a range of standard feeds could provide adequate nutritional support, while in unstable patients with complex needs and those needing long term PN, tailored feeds appear the more logical choice. Pharmacy compounding units, therefore, need to remain flexible in their approach to PN provision. Since even small variations in nutrient intake in early life may have long lasting implications for extremely premature infants the processes of formulating and providing PN deserve further study.
Key words: parenteral nutrition, standard feeds, pre-mixed PN solution, tailored feeds, premature infants