Prescription by a doctor is a formal communication from a doctor to a pharmacist to dispense a specific drug for a patient. It is an important means of therapeutic intervention, reflecting a doctor’s approach towards safe prescribing of the drug(s). It’s a well researched fact that inappropriate use of drugs is a global health problem, especially in developing countries. Irrational prescriptions have an ill effect on health as well as health-care expenditure. Amidst it, the Supreme Court has expressed serious concern over the freebies to promote a particular brand of a drug. Among others , the freebies included travel expenses, perquisites and gifts to doctors and medical professionals for promoting the group’s products under heads listed as promotion, seminars, symposiums, and medical advisories, according to the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT).
The apex court observation came on a petition filed by Federation of Medical Representatives of India, seeking central government’s action for a statutory code of ethical marketing practices with penal consequences to curb what the federation has described as recurrent unethical practices with detrimental consequences to patients.
It is in this context that prescription auditing needs to be done more actively. It is an important tool to improve the quality of prescriptions, which in turn improves the quality of health care provided.
It is important that the prescription is in line with the best practices mentioned in the World Health Organization guidelines as well as the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare which was founded in 2006. In a step towards meeting this endeavor, the Health and Medical Education Department had formed a committee comprising doctors (Medical Superintendents) and Nodal Officers (doctors) to conduct prescription audits in Government Medical Colleges of Jammu and Srinagar and its Associated Hospitals. The panels had been tasked to prepare and submit fortnightly reports to the respective HODs, who shall prepare a comprehensive monthly report along with their recommendations, highlighting the actionable points, which shall be submitted to the Administrative Department. The panels, if still in practice, need to check if the medical practitioners are indulging in practices that go against medical ethics such as prescribing medicine not even required by the patient for mere promotional purposes. One cannot ignore the complexity of the medical field and beyond doubt, a well-meaning ethical doctor may prescribe an expensive brand of the drug only for a better outcome. Quality of the drug is crucial but at the same time, the question that begs answers is: who is keeping a tab on that?