RCGP defends prescribing schemes despite EU view

GP payments from prescribing incentive schemes are 'within the spirit' of an EU directive banning promotion of drugs by gifts, the RCGP has said.

An opinion issued by the European Court has deemed prescribing schemes illegal. The European Court of Justice advocate general said this month that the schemes break EU directive 2001/83, which prohibits promotion of medicinal products by gift.

Figures obtained by GP last year showed that around one in three PCTs operate schemes that pay GPs for prescribing generically.

Dr David Millson, RCGP clinical champion for prescribing, said the financial inducements to prescribers were 'not profits as such'.

'These funds are often used to provide other services for patients in a practice, for example non-drug counselling services for depression or to employ a pharmacist to help with the switching required, or to fund training for non-medical prescribers in a practice,' he said.

'Most GPs in the UK are working in partnership with commissioners and PCTs to improve value and to provide more cost-effective medicines to patients, at a time when NHS budgets are coming under increased pressure.

'Thus they are operating within the spirit of the EU directive,' he added.

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