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Doctors have a plan to dispense medicine and pharmacists aren't happy

The NAGP says the plan would work, the IPU says it would harm patients.

Image: Shutterstock/Brian A Jackson

THE IRISH PHARMACY Union (IPU) has said that a proposal which would see GPs able to dispense medicines is “not in the interests of the patients or of their safety”.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Dr Yvonne Williams of the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) said that the scheme would be a continuation of an existing system which operates for out-of-hours doctors.

She was speaking after a Sunday Business Post article yesterday revealed the plan.

She added that 108 rural GPs are already prescribing simple medicines and GPs would only do that. Complex prescriptions would be left to pharmacists.

Dr Williams added that the scheme could reduce the amount spent on drugs in Ireland.

However, the IPU says that the separation of the responsibility of prescribing and dispensing drugs is a “partnership”.

“General Medical Council research indicates that 7-8% of prescriptions contain at least one error.

“Therefore, having a prescription checked by a pharmacist before dispensing is essential to protect patient safety.

Pharmacists detect prescription errors, drug interactions and adverse reactions, and ensure that patients are taking the right dose of the right medicine at the right time and in the right way.

“For GPs to prescribe and also dispense medicines to patients for profit would create a serious conflict of interest by introducing a financial incentive to increase prescriptions to patients.”

The IPU adds that there is no regulatory body with the powers to oversee doctors’ prescriptions and there is a training deficit in terms of pharmacology.

“Until GPs have the same training in pharmacology, pharmaceutics and other relevant subjects as pharmacists and their practices are subject to the same rules, regulations, and audit and inspection regimes, they cannot expect to safely undertake the professional activities of pharmacists.”

An NAGP spokesperson said that the proposal would be in place for medical card holders, ensuring no money changes hands and a conflict of interests is avoided.

“The proposal only applies to a limited number of the most commonly prescribed medicines while more complex prescriptions would need to be filled by a pharmacist. Patients will have the choice between receiving the relevant prescribed medicines from their GP or through their local pharmacy.

“Critically, this is already happening in GP practices across the country during out of hours services as pharmacies do not operate 24/7. There are also 108 dispensing GPs in Ireland.

“The NAGP are researching the potential cost savings that could be made for the state with regard to the cost of medicines. If there are savings, this money could be reinvested back into general practice and community-based patient care.”

Read: Like most of my friends, I baptised my children so they could go to school’: The anger of Ireland’s non-religious parents

Read: Tributes paid to boy who drowned in River Liffey

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