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GMC proposes tough stance on doctors who prescribe for sports cheats

16 April 2011

Patients and health professionals are being asked for their views on tough guidelines for doctors treating athletes who they suspect may be taking banned performance-enhancing drugs.

New draft guidance from the General Medical Council states that doctors must not prescribe performance-enhancing drugs or treatments to athletes, and any doctor who suspects that an athlete’s performance is improperly enhanced should raise concerns when it is in the public interest.

The draft guidance, Good practice in prescribing and managing medicines and devices, asks doctors to avoid prescribing for themselves or family members, and only to prescribe controlled drugs for them in an emergency, when lives or health are at serious risk.

Patients buying prescriptions online would also receive greater protection under the new guidance, which would require doctors prescribing via websites to liaise with the patient’s GP, unless the patient objects.

For the first time, the GMC is proposing that doctors can prescribe an unlicensed or ‘off-label’ medicine that is cheaper, provided there are authoritative clinical guidelines to support its use and it is just as safe and effective for the patient.

Doctors are also being asked to raise and to respond constructively to concerns raised by colleagues and patients about adverse incidents and near-misses involving the use of medicines and medical devices.

The medical profession, other health professionals and patients are also being asked for their views about guidance that says prescriptions should never be issued for the convenience of care staff looking after patients.

Niall Dickson, the Chief Executive of the GMC said:

“Between 1995 and 2009 the number of drugs prescribed by GPs tripled*and it is clear that they remain a vital part of the medical armoury, bringing benefits to many patients. So it is vital that our guidance for doctors on prescribing and managing medicines is relevant and up to date.

“We want to hear the views of patients, carers, doctors and other health professionals about some of the difficult decisions doctors face when prescribing and how doctors can help patients better understand the information about the medicines they are taking.”

The consultation opens on 6 April 2011 and runs until 27 May 2011. Members of the public and patients who are interested in adding their views can take part in the consultation by visiting the GMC website at www.gmc-uk.org/prescribing

Once the guidance is finalised and approved, the GMC plans to issue it in early 2012.