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Doctors prescribing and dispensing of medicine at the same time

In Pennsylvania a doctor does not require a license to dispense of medication. Yet it is a great concern that doctors are provided with too much authority to directly provide medicine to patients without any safeguards to prevent a medication error.

Studies have shown that such medication errors often occur due to a miscommunication between a doctor and a pharmacy. However, pharmacists often have safety procedures in place that allows them to detect such errors before a patient ends up taking the incorrect medication or dosage. Having a doctor both prescribe and dispense of the medicine cuts out this particular safety check.

One problem is that doctors are not privy to the same tools as a pharmacist to detect certain problems. For example, pharmacists can look at a computer screen and have a good idea of the various medications that a patient is taking, and the pharmacist can also review specific drug information that will contain warnings as to what combinations of drugs are or are not proper.

Prescribing of incorrect dosage or the wrong medication is one of the primary reasons that patients and their attorneys file medical malpractice claims against doctors. Though in some circumstances doctors directly dispensing of medicine may be more convenient for the patient, convenience cannot trump safety concerns.

Frankly, some doctors and staff may have less knowledge about certain medications - in particular side effects - than a pharmacist. Especially when it comes to cancer medications, certain drugs can be extremely toxic. There should at least be in place some oversight if a doctor is allowed to prescribe medications that will safeguard against error.

Source: philly.com, "When doctors - not pharmacists - dispense meds," by Michael Cohen, March 13, 2012

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