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Symptom control in palliative care

The Government has conceded GPs may need to continue prescribing co-proxamol on a named-patient basis after its withdrawal later this year.

But GPs will be vulnerable to legal backlash as a result of prescribing an unlicensed drug unless the Department of Health grants indemnity.

The announcement was made in Parliament after Anne Begg, Labour MP for Aberdeen South, asked what could be done for patients who had not had their pain controlled with alternative drugs.

In her response, Caroline Flint, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health, said 'provision will remain for the supply of unlicensed prep-arations'.

She added: 'For a minority who have gone through all the alternatives there may be a clinical need to continue prescribing co-proxamol.'

But RCGP prescribing spokesperson Dr Jim Kennedy said GPs should be very

cautious about prescribing any unlicensed drug because of the possible legal consequences.

'Think very carefully before you take that option because you are legally exposed.'

Miss Begg added: 'I will

be writing to the minister about whether doctors will still be covered by medical

insurance. GPs will want reassurance.'

During the debate, an

article in Pulse (May 7) outlining how Dr Peter Frith had reduced his patients on co-proxamol from 438 to 20 was highlighted as an example of best practice.

The MHRA said it would be down to individual pharmaceutical companies to decide whether to continue producing co-proxamol after its licence is withdrawn.

By Emma Wilkinson

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