More than 50% of surveyed Norwegian doctors self-prescribe

10/18/05

More than half of Norwegian doctors surveyed prescribe themselves medication, and most of them start self-prescribing just after leaving medical school. A study published in the open access journal BMC Medicine reveals that a large number of doctors in Norway start self-prescribing early after graduation and continue doing so well into their career – a finding that is likely to be mirrored in other western countries. Self-prescribing can be dangerous and should be avoided; medical students should be made aware of the dangers associated with it while at medical school.

Erlend Hem and colleagues, from the University of Oslo in Norway, conducted a study of a sample of students from all medical schools in Norway. They assessed the students' self-prescribing behaviour by asking them to fill in a questionnaire, one year, four years and nine years after graduation from medical school. In total, 252 students responded to all three questionnaires.

Hem et al.'s results show that 69% of doctors had self-prescribed once or more in their first year after graduation. These doctors were more likely to self-prescribe later in their careers than those who hadn't self-prescribed soon after graduation. Overall 54% of respondents in their fourth or ninth year after graduation had self-prescribed in the past year. Among respondents who had used prescription medication during the previous year, 90% had self-prescribed.

There were no differences in self-prescribing between men and women or between hospital physicians and general practitioners. The most frequently self-prescribed medications were antibiotics, contraceptives, analgesics and hypnotics. Hypnotics were self-prescribed by 12.4% of the doctors in their ninth year after graduation.

It may be convenient for doctors to self-prescribe, but self-prescribing can be dangerous for various reasons: it lacks the objectivity and professional distance that usually exist between a physician and a patient, and can lead to a delay in diagnosis and in decision to treat. In addition, many conditions need follow-up, which might not be conducted properly by a doctor who self-prescribes.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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