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Rise in GMC sanctions for prescribing meds to loved ones prompts warning

Some doctors even sending medication abroad, says MDDUS

Caroline White

Monday, 28 July 2014

The medical defence organisation MDDUS has reminded doctors not to prescribe drugs for family or friends, following a rise in GMC sanctions for such cases.

The MDDUS has dealt with a growing number of cases where doctors have apparently ignored GMC guidance and faced GMC sanctions for prescribing drugs to those close to them, with some incidents involving medication being sent to relatives living abroad, it says.

This practice brings added risks relating to laws on the import and export of medications as well as concerns over access to the full medical history of patients outside the UK, it warns.

GMC fitness to practise proceedings have been raised against doctors for prescribing friends or family with drugs such as benzodiazepines and opiates as well as antibiotics and non-benzodiazepine hypnotics.

“Doctors should exercise caution in prescribing for friends or family, only doing so when absolutely necessary and based on clinical need rather than convenience,” says MDDUS medical adviser Dr Naeem Nazem.

“It may be difficult to justify these actions with the ready availability of out-of-hours services, walk-in centres, and A&E departments,” he added.

GMC guidance states doctors must, wherever possible, avoid prescribing for themselves or those with whom they have a close personal relationship.

“Treating family or friends abroad has additional complications. Doctors must consider the safe storage and transfer of prescribed medicines as well as the UK regulatory framework for the export of medicines and the import regulations of the recipient country, “said Dr Nazem.

“In addition, doctors can encounter difficulties in prescribing for a patient they are unable to meet. In particular, doctors may not have access to the patient’s full medical history or their current medication,” he added.

MDDUS has also handled cases involving doctors prescribing controlled drugs for family members.

“GMC guidance on prescribing controlled drugs to family and friends is clear – yet we have dealt with cases where GPs have prescribed opiates, for example, for their wife or husband,” explained Dr Nazem.

“We encourage doctors to play it safe and avoid diagnosing and treating themselves or loved ones with medicines. Otherwise, they may be called upon to justify why it was necessary for them to prescribe rather than the patient’s regular doctor,” he said.

“Doctors should recognise that self-prescribing drugs of dependence such as opiates or powerful painkillers is entirely unacceptable. In some cases, pharmacists have refused to dispense the medication but MDDUS has also encountered situations in which the pharmacist has dispensed the prescription and then reported the doctor to the GMC,” he added.

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