A systematic review of the literature comparing the practices of dispensing and non-dispensing doctors

Health Policy. 2009 Sep;92(1):1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2009.01.008. Epub 2009 Mar 9.


Objectives: Some doctors perform the dual roles of prescribing and dispensing pharmaceuticals. The dispensing doctors (DDs) role may give rise to prescribing behaviours that vary from those of non-DDs. The aim of this review was to systematically and comparatively appraise the research evidence related to the practices of DDs.

Methods: A systematic search of bibliographic databases and reference lists from selected papers were the sources of the data. Inclusion criteria were papers published in English, between 1970 and 2008 that provided quantitative data comparing the practices of DDs and non-DDs. At least two of the authors abstracted data from all eligible papers using a purpose-made data extraction form.

Results: Twenty-one papers were included in this review. Evidence indicated that DDs prescribed more pharmaceutical items and less often generically than non-DDs. There was limited evidence to suggest that DDs prescribed less judiciously and were associated with poor dispensing standards. Patient convenience and access to pharmaceuticals were main reasons for doctors to dispense.

Conclusion: DDs can fill an important gap in the provision of pharmaceuticals for their patients especially where health workforce shortages exist. There was evidence the dispensing role influenced prescribing. Patient convenience should be balanced against scarce medical resources, being utilised for dispensing.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Drug Costs
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Republic of Korea
  • Taiwan