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Should your doctor be dispensing your medication?

At one time or another you have probably received a sample of medication from your doctor's office just to get you started on a treatment regime, but now there is a trend for doctors to dispense all medications directly to the patient rather than send them to their pharmacy. Those opposed to this type of dispensing fear that more medication errors will occur and possibly harm a patient.

Most doctors' offices are allowed to dispense samples of medications for conditions where there is an immediate need and it is regulated. Some states even require a special license for a doctor to do this.

The upside of a doctor being able to dispense medication is that it would be convenient to the patient, doctor's would be able to dispense lower-cost generic medications and improved patient adherence with medication regimes. The negatives include medication safety concerns, lack of regulatory oversight, and no procedure for medication labeling, record keeping, storage and supervision of the dispensing of drugs.

Many doctors and pharmacists are uneasy about doctors being able to dispense medications and the main reason is the potential conflict of interest. Doctors may be dispensing medication that they make a profit from. Also, the safety issue is of big concern. According to a 2007 report by the Institute of Medicine, medication errors originate during the medication prescribing process. Pharmacists catch these errors most of the time and they are a built-in safety net for the doctor.

The U.S. Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services as well as the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, feel that regulatory oversight and accountability is a must in the dispensing of drugs in order to protect the safety of the patient.

While it may be convenient for a patient to have their doctor give them their medication during a doctor visit, it may not be the safest.

Source: Philly.com, "When doctors -- not pharmacists -- dispense meds," Mar. 13, 2012

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