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Wednesday, 21 March, 2001, 02:55 GMT
GPs call for prescription changes
Prescription form
GPs are worried TV ads could push up the drug budget
Doctors' leaders are calling for a radical rethink on prescribing, which they say is "riddled with anomalies".

They are worried that TV and internet advertising of prescription drugs will push up demands for higher cost drugs, as patients learn more about the different drugs available.

At the moment drug companies are not allowed to advertise prescription medicines on the television.

But it is allowed in America, where it has led to an increase in patients lobbying their doctor for specific drugs.

Patients are becoming more and more knowledgeable about health

Dr George Rae, of the British Medical Association

The British Medical Association's GP committee, which is canvassing doctors for their views, also questions whether they should charge for consultations about lifestyle drugs which are not currently on the market.

Although some lifestyle drugs, such as the baldness drug Propecia, are not available on prescription, patients still make appointments with their GP to discuss the pros and cons of taking it.

Pharmacist powers

GP leaders also criticise anomalies in the current system where people with some chronic conditions qualify for free prescriptions when others do not.

The document discusses handing some powers on issue over-the-counter medicines back to the pharmacists.

They said that if pharmacists were allowed to issue prescriptions such as children's paracetamol, to save low income families large expenses, it would relieve pressure on already stretched GPs.

The BMA's discussion document asks the GPs 13 questions about prescribing. Any new policies would be formulated at the annual conference of local medical committees in June.

Dr George Rae, chair of the sub-committee on prescribing and a GP in Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear, said an improving patient drug knowledge would obviously lead to an increasing demand on the GPs time.

He said: "Patients are becoming more and more knowledgeable about health.

"They surf the Internet for information about their medical conditions and the logical next step might be to allow the drug companies to advertise direct to the consumer.

"There is a downside. Pharmaceutical companies are going to put their advertising budgets behind the new drugs, which are likely to be more expensive than tried and tested drugs or non-branded generics."

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See also:

12 Sep 00 | Health
Prescriptions to go online
05 Jun 00 | Health
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10 Aug 00 | Health
NHS drugs bill soars
16 Mar 01 | Scotland
Prescriptions up by 10p in Scotland
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