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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Doctor, (don't) heal thyself: Self-prescribing declines

Originally published February 29, 2012

Far fewer doctors-in-training are prescribing themselves medication than in the past, suggests a new study.

Less than one percent of residents surveyed said they wrote themselves a prescription for an allergy medication, antidepressant or another drug over the course of a year.

In a similar study from more than a decade ago, over half of all medical trainees reported self-prescribing, which many consider ethically questionable.

"I would say it looks like, taking (the findings) at face value, that young residents and physicians-in-training are following recommendations about ethical considerations about treating themselves, and that seems like a good thing," said Dr. Ajit Limaye, from the University of Washington in Seattle.

Still, Limaye -- who has studied physician self-prescribing but wasn't involved in the new study -- cautioned against drawing too much confidence from its results.

"The practice, anecdotally from my experience, is very common," he told Reuters Health.

While it's not illegal for doctors to self-prescribe most types of medication (with the exception of controlled substances), researchers as well as the American Medical Association generally consider it a bad idea.

For one, doctors aren't the most objective prescribers when they're treating themselves. Another concern is that residents and other doctors may self-prescribe using free samples from pharmaceutical companies, which could bias the drugs they recommend to patients in the future.

The entire story is here.