The formulation of an oral iron tablet may influence its therapeutic efficacy in correcting iron deficiency. In order to determine the oral iron preparations patients in a Canadian urban center were receiving, a questionnaire was circulated to family physicians, internists, surgeons, and obstetrician-gynecologists to determine their prescribing practices. A survey of pharmacies in the city was also conducted to determine which brand of each iron salt (sulfate, gluconate, fumarate) they dispensed for a generic oral iron prescription. Most physicians (74 percent) chose ferrous sulfate as their drug of first choice. The majority of prescribers would not specifically request either enteric-coated/slow-release or nonenteric-coated preparations as first or second choices (71 and 64 percent, respectively). Enteric-coated or slow-release preparations were specified by 10 and 19 percent of physicians as first and second choices, respectively. Most pharmacies (96 percent) dispensed an enteric-coated preparation of ferrous sulfate for a generic prescription. We believe that many patients are receiving iron tablets with altered release properties (enteric-coated/slow-release). These tablets may fail to provide the desired therapeutic benefit based on the known physiology of iron absorption.