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European court rules that NHS incentive schemes for cheap prescribing do not breach law

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c2232 (Published 23 April 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c2232
  1. Clare Dyer
  1. 1BMJ

    NHS schemes which offer doctors financial incentives to prescribe cheaper drugs do not contravene European law, the European Court of Justice has ruled in a judgment that should save the health service many millions of pounds.

    Five judges in the Luxembourg court went against the recommendation of the court’s advocate general that they should rule that prescribing incentive schemes for GPs in England and Wales breach a European directive on the promotion of medicinal products (BMJ 2010;340:c1945, doi:10.1136/bmj.c1945).

    On the contrary, they ruled, the NHS schemes are compatible with the European directive and do not prejudice the objectivity of prescribing doctors because doctors are obliged by their code of conduct to prescribe in the patients’ best interests.

    But the health authorities must provide the drug industry with information showing that the schemes …

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