Washington Post Examines Growing Trend Of Drug Dispensing By Physicians

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The Washington Post on Tuesday examined physicians who sell prescription drugs to patients. According to the journal Physicians Practice,less than 10% of U.S. physicians currently sell prescription drugs attheir clinics. However, Mark Bard, president of the health care marketresearch firm Manhattan Research, says the number of physicians dispensing drugs could increase to 25% over the next five to 10 years.

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"Pointof care" dispensing is prohibited in most states, but physicians insome states, including Maryland and Virginia, can receive authorizationto sell prescriptions from their pharmacy boards. Bard said commonlyprescribed medications -- such as antibiotics, pain relievers andallergy medications -- account for the majority of drugs doctors sell,and some specialists are looking to sell specialty drugs, such ascancer medications. A recent survey of 900 U.S. adults found that threeof four respondents said they would prefer purchasing their drugsdirectly from their physicians.

"One incentive" for physiciansto sell medications "is that any profits fall outside the control ofmanaged care, which has been putting the squeeze on reimbursementrates," according to the Post. The Post reports that physicians "usually charge more for drugs than a pharmacy does."

However,some experts say patients could be overcharged by doctors sellingmedications and face increased health risks if they are not properlycounseled about possible drug interactions. Mitchel Rothholtz, chief ofstaff of the American Pharmacists Association,said, "It's important for patients to utilize the knowledge of theirpharmacists as medication experts." Michael Cohen, president of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, said, "It's a system that's ripe for abuse" (Kritz, Washington Post, 10/30).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily HealthPolicy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The HenryJ. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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