What Is Physician Dispensing?

Jillian O Keeffe

Often, a patient attending a doctor's clinic has to take a prescription and go to a pharmacy to fill it. Physician dispensing is an alternate route of filling a prescription which involves the doctor's office giving the drug directly to the patient, without involving a pharmacy. Potential benefits to this system include ease of access for the patient, and a decreased likelihood of the patient forgetting to buy and take the drug. Disadvantages of the physician dispensing concept include an increased workload for the doctor's office and the fact, that in some regions of the world, doctors are not legally able to dispense medications.

Pills from a dispensing physician.
Pills from a dispensing physician.

Commonly, medications are stored and dispensed at a pharmacy. This is typically a shop with staff members who are specifically trained in the dispensation of drugs. A pharmacist studies the potential interactions of drugs and the other ways in which medications can act on the body. Another important role of a pharmacist is to ensure that the patient receives the correct medication and in the correct dosage, as errors in prescription dispensation can be dangerous.

Physician dispensing cuts out the pharmacist altogether.
Physician dispensing cuts out the pharmacist altogether.

Physician dispensing cuts out the pharmacist altogether. Instead of storing and providing drugs at a pharmacy, the doctor keeps a stock of medication at the clinic or office. The office must have the necessary storage areas, and staff that are qualified to handle the medications. The role of the pharmacist is fulfilled by the doctor, who ensures that the drug he or she prescribed is suitable for the patient and compatible with other medications the patient is taking.

For doctors who practice physician dispensing, a typical routine is to examine the patient, allocate a suitable prescription, and then provide the patient with the drug. As the patient does not have to go to a pharmacy, which may be located some distance away, or may be closed by the time he or she gets there, the physician dispensing route is much more practical to use. It also reduces the chance that the person may choose to forget about the prescription for reasons of ease of access or for expense.

Benefits for the doctor include the fact that physician dispensing is another revenue stream; in this scenario, the profits that previously went to the pharmacist go into the doctor's pocket. Any issues with the prescription, that otherwise would involve communication between a pharmacy and a a doctor, which can incur a fee, can be much more easily resolved with physician dispensing. Although physician dispensing is legal and regulated in some areas of the world, in other places doctors are not qualified to fulfill this role, and other routes of dispensing such as pharmacies are required.

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