Does legislation reduce harm to doctors who prescribe for themselves?

Kay, Margaret, Del Mar, Chris and Mitchell, Geoff (2004). Does legislation reduce harm to doctors who prescribe for themselves?. In: 2004 GP & PHC Research Conference abstracts. 2004 General Practice and Primary Health Care Research Conference, Melbourne, Australia, (). 2 - 4 June 2004.

Author Kay, Margaret
Del Mar, Chris
Mitchell, Geoff
Title of paper Does legislation reduce harm to doctors who prescribe for themselves?
Conference name 2004 General Practice and Primary Health Care Research Conference
Conference location Melbourne, Australia
Conference dates 2 - 4 June 2004
Proceedings title 2004 GP & PHC Research Conference abstracts
Place of Publication Australia
Publisher Primary Health Care Research and Information Service
Publication Year 2004
Sub-type Poster
Open Access Status
Language eng
Formatted Abstract/Summary
Aims & rationale/Objectives
Legislation restricting doctors from selfprescribing S4 medication has been enacted in one Australian State. One reason for prohibiting self-prescribing was to reduce the potential for misuse, abuse and drug dependence likely to impair the practitioner and create a risk to patients. It is appropriate to question whether legislation can actually achieve this anticipated outcome. This study reviewed self-prescribing behaviour by doctors.

A systematic review of the medical literature was performed to identify articles discussing legislation that restricts self-prescribing. Literature was critically examined for evidence of how doctors self-prescribe.

Principal findings
No articles were identified that discuss legislation restricting general prescribing rights of doctors. The literature does show that doctors self-prescribe responsibly. Although studies from the 1980s show selfprescribing of hypnotics is increased there was no significant increase in self-prescribing other potentially addictive drugs.


Doctors' self-prescribing habits resemble their prescribing habits for the community, and the small differences in the increased self-prescribing of hypnotics are not necessarily related to drug-dependency problems of doctors. The literature criticising self-prescribing often fails to distinguish between self-prescription and selfadministration. Narcotic-dependent doctors often self-administer drugs, but selfprescription is not the main source of these medications. The issue of legislation and drug addiction is also put into perspective recognising that alcohol is the most common drug abused by doctors who are impaired. The potential consequences of restricting self-prescribing are discussed.


The article asks that legislation consider this evidence before enacting laws for which there is no evidence of benefit, and asks doctors to be more aware of the potential effects of legislation upon the medical community.
Q-Index Code EX
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Version Filter Type
Citation counts: Google Scholar Search Google Scholar
Created: Sat, 28 Jul 2012, 19:32:16 EST by Dr Margaret Kay on behalf of Discipline of General Practice