A case involving a GP member disciplined for a range of issues including inappropriately prescribing steroids and human growth hormones highlights regulatory bodies’ approach to this type of practice.
The GP was referred by The Medical Board of Australia to the state’s administrative tribunal for inappropriately prescribing steroids, human growth hormones and other drugs in the context of anti-ageing treatments and related conduct issues.
The tribunal found the GP had prescribed anabolic androgenic steroids, anastrozole steroid hormones and human growth hormones without having a therapeutic indication. Conduct issues included failure to record and conduct adequate clinical assessments, consider the benefit and harm in their clinical management decisions and conducting excessive and inappropriate investigations.
The case emphasises the importance for doctors to regularly assess their prescribing habits. This includes only prescribing medications that are therapeutically indicated and not unnecessarily exposing patients to adverse side effects. It’s also important to be thorough when recording your consultations and prescriptions – note down the therapeutic indication as well as the dosage, frequency and period of prescription.
During the investigation, the tribunal found the GP also self-prescribed medication including statins, antibiotics and Nexium, and prescribed medication for several family members. The tribunal decided this conduct constituted a failure to observe good medical practice due to self-diagnosis and self-treatment, and failure to maintain professional boundaries, which contravened the Medical Board of Australia’s Good Medical Practice: A Code of Conduct For Doctors in Australia (The Code).
Under The Code, good medical practice involves having your own GP and seeking independent, objective advice when you need medical care, and being aware of the risks of self-diagnosis and self-treatment. If there is an emergency or necessity to treat a family member, provide only the treatment required and then handover care to an independent doctor.
Ultimately, the tribunal found the GP guilty of professional misconduct and suspended their registration for eight months.
A number of conditions were imposed on their registration. This encompassed being prohibited from prescribing, supplying and administering medications and prescribing, supplying or administering any medicines for themselves or their family members. They were also required to attend a GP for treatment and prescriptions and complete education.
- This case highlights the importance of making sure when you are prescribing medications they are therapeutically indicated and do not unnecessarily expose patients to adverse side effects.
- Be thorough when recording your consultations and prescriptions – note down the therapeutic indication as well as the dosage, frequency and period of prescription.
- It is a good idea to have your own independent GP.
- If there is an emergency or necessity to treat a family member, provide only the treatment required and then handover care to an independent doctor.
Download our factsheet, Medical Records – The Essentials, or access our e-Learning modules, On the Record: Medical Records and Documentation and Prescribing: Principles and Practices.
If you are subject to a complaint, visit our website or email our Medico-legal Advisory Service (MLAS) at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1800 128 268 for expert advice, 24/7 in emergencies.