GPs asked to change prescribing habits

Photo from the ODT files
Photo from the ODT files
Southern GPs are being asked to change their prescribing habits to free up funds for other health services. 

Reducing Southern general practices' $44 million annual medicines bill would help relieve ''considerable financial pressure'' on the Southern District Health Board, a letter to GPs this week from Bpac says.

Bpac, a Dunedin-based medical education organisation, has been contracted by the board for the six-month project.

Versions of the letter have been sent to more than 800 GPs, practice nurses and pharmacists in the South.

Using practice-specific prescribing data, Bpac would meet individual practices to discuss their prescribing.

From its analysis of Southern prescribing, Bpac had identified that medicines were mostly prescribed appropriately.

''However, we have noted that there are some small but very specific changes that can be made that have the potential to save a significant amount of money, without compromising outcomes for your patients.

''We hope you'll find this a useful and interesting exercise. We also hope that you will be open to considering making changes that have the potential to free up money that will ultimately allow the DHB to provide more services for your patients,'' the letter says.

Potential savings are as high as several million dollars a year, and should make care safer for patients, Bpac manager Tony Fraser told the Otago Daily Times.

''We have identified areas of prescribing where if we make different choices it would be more cost effective.

''These are areas that are well supported by evidence. It is perhaps areas where there is new evidence on treatment or drugs.

''If we don't have some sound evidence that it's going to improve, or at least give the same outcome as the current pattern of prescribing, [then] it's just not on the agenda,'' Mr Fraser said.

New Zealanders were targeted by drug advertisers touting newer medicines which were were not necessarily the safest or most effective.

''It has a very large impact,'' Mr Fraser said when asked about the impact of advertising on prescribing.

Bpac aimed to counter the influence of drug advertisers. ''We want to get our message out there as well ... because otherwise it's very one-sided.''

Bpac wanted GPs to see the relationship between the medicine bill and the availability of other essential services for their patients.

Asked if Bpac was targeting multi-prescribing for older people, Mr Fraser said it was not a particular focus of the project.

Multi-prescribing was a problem to address in future, with careful planning involving support from various health providers.

Amity Health Centre GP Dr Susie Lawless said when contacted Bpac provided a valuable information service for GPs, and she was comfortable with its additional focus on Southern prescribing.

''As GPs, I think we are all very aware of minimising medication overuse or wastage, and personalised, specific feedback is a useful tool to address this.

''What we would be concerned about is any move to constrain prescribing that compromised patient care, but I see no evidence that this is approaching the issue in this way,'' Dr Lawless said.

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