This paper discusses the literature on hospital pharmacy services for in-patients in Brazil, seeking a broader view of its characteristics and priorities. Seventeen papers were located in the Medline and Lilacs databases that complied with the pre-defined inclusion/exclusion criteria. Most of them were related to teaching and research, logistics and compounding, based on observations in public hospitals in Southeast Brazil. Few studies focused on core activities such as management and selection. The academic syllabus through which pharmacy students are trained may underlie the perception that compounding is the preponderant aspect of hospital pharmacy services, although this is required in only a few institutions. Added to this is poor compliance by pharmacy activities with established norms and standards and the lack of an indexed Brazilian publication in this field. As there were far more studies of the public sector than its private counterpart, it seems as though there is either greater freedom of action in the former or less scientific output in the latter, quantified by published studies.