There have been incidents of PCOs looking to cut costs by providing a list of drugs that they wish to stop providing within their PCO area, effectively preventing GPs from prescribing them, says the GPC.
Some PCOs have also put pressure on practices by instructing them to switch patients to more money-saving statins.
The GPC says GP practices are required, under all types of contract, to prescribe any drugs, medicines or appliances which are needed for the treatment of any patient.
Its guidance points to the revised GMS contract which says: ‘Practices can be in breach of their contract by prescribing drugs … whose cost or quantity, in relation to any patient, is, by reason of the character of the drug … in excess of that which is reasonably necessary for the proper treatment of that patient.’
The GPC adds that switching patients to less expensive drugs usually within a therapeutic class is appropriate where there is no contraindication. However, it may also be appropriate for GPs to ‘have the clinical freedom to switch individual patients to higher-priced drugs (branded or otherwise), or to alternative drugs, for clinical reasons.’