Patient Safety Concerns As GPs Prescribe Alternative Drugs

A Report Has Revealed Medication Shortages Have Led Many GPs To Prescribe Patients' Second Choice Of Drugs


Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397
Serious concerns have been raised for the safety of patients receiving medication via a prescription, as a report has emerged revealing many individuals are given their second choice of drug.

GP Magazine reports how significant shortages of medication have led to this becoming commonplace, with a survey carried out by the publication discovering one-third of doctors have seen their patients adversely affected due to an alternative treatment being prescribed during the past year.

Looking at the results in more detail, of 635 family doctors who responded to the survey, 93.5 per cent had been forced to give a patient their second choice of drug in the last 12 months due to medication shortages.

Speaking to the magazine, one GP partner explained: "For some drugs, there is just no equivalent available and patients' treatment is compromised."

To resolve the issue, GPs are calling for new measures to be introduced to make sure they know well in advance that drugs are going to be in short supply so they have time to ensure they are making educated decisions when it comes to prescribing alternatives. 

Chairman of the GPC clinical and prescribing subcommittee Dr Andrew Green explained: "If you're a prescribing GP, the first you know about a shortage of a drug is when patients tell you."

Despite this, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee is currently listing only 18 generic drugs and 20 branded forms of medication as out of stock or in short supply, meaning this substitution of drugs may not need to be quite so widespread.

The magazine's survey also looked at staff shortages in the care industry, finding that eight in ten GPs have experienced a significant increase in their workload over the past 12 months, which once again raises concerns about the safety and wellbeing of patients.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health commented: "We are actively involved in a number of pieces of work to tackle these problems, both at a UK level and at a European and global level."

Expert Opinion
The findings outlined in this report are very worrying especially as they indicate some doctors are unable to prescribe their first choice medication to patients.

“Patient care should always be the top priority and it is vital medication is available to treat their illnesses. All too often we have seen cases where mistakes are made with medication which can lead to further health problems.

“For a patient to be given a doctor’s second choice of medication for their condition, or there not to be an alternative available, is very concerning. It could lead to further health issues or even have fatal consequences.

“It is encouraging that steps are being taken to improve the availability of medication for patients.”
Mandy Luckman, Partner