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GPhC may look at overprescribing risk from IP contractors ‘in future’

The GPhC has said that regulating overprescribing risks is a “developing area”, amid concerns about IP contractor conflicts of interest at this year’s Pharmacy Show.

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) may look at overprescribing by independent prescriber (IP) pharmacy contractors “in the future”, its deputy regional director David Clark said during a panel at the Pharmacy Show on Sunday (October 15).

Mr Clark was responding to concerns raised by Day Lewis executive director Sam Patel, who warned that a rising number of IP pharmacy owners presented “a potential for risk of overprescribing”.

Read more: Pharmacy First: Sector must prove it can ‘manage’ antimicrobial stewardship

Mr Patel called on the regulator to “challenge” prescribing pharmacy owners on potential “conflicts of interest”, suggesting that the GPhC keeps an “active register” of prescribers that also have “a participation in a pharmacy”.

Mr Clark said that the rise of prescribing pharmacists presented “a little bit” of a grey area of responsibility between the GPhC and the Care Quality Commission (CQC). 

But he added that while the regulator doesn’t ask “explicit questions” about prescribing and pharmacy ownership, it does look at the way a pharmacy that offers prescribing services handles “risks” and conflicts of interest from that service.

Read more: Overprescribing review calls for pharmacists’ and pharmacy technicians’ skills to be upgraded

And he said that in the course of inspections, the regulator will look at conflicts of interest indirectly in the “frame” of professional judgment and decision making and whether those are influenced by “outside factors, financial factors or other incentives”.

“At the moment, we don't ask those explicit questions…but it doesn't mean to say it won't come in the future because this is a developing area,” Mr Clark said.


Prescribing risks?


In 2021, a government-commissioned review concluded that the skills of healthcare professionals, including pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, needed to be upgraded in order to tackle overprescribing.

The review estimated that 10% of items dispensed in primary care were overprescribed.

Read more: GPhC: Essential that pharmacists get read-write access to patients’ records

The same year, then-chair of the GPhC Nigel Clarke argued that a common database between GPs and pharmacists could help mitigate risks in patient care and tackle overprescribing.

And with Community Pharmacy England (CPE) expressing hope that negotiations on the Pharmacy First service will be concluded by next month, some have questioned whether the service will have implications for antibiotic overprescribing as well as professional liability.

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