June 23, 2003, 12:00 AM

AMA calls on physicians to meet new guidelines for online prescriptions

The American Medical Association wants physicians who conduct business over the Internet to keep closer ties with patients, such as performing a physical exam before prescribing medications online.


In an effort to control the way medications are distributed on the web, the American Medical Association has released a set of guidelines that call on physicians to avoid prescribing medications online without first getting a patient`s medical history and conducting a physical examination. The AMA also notes that some web-based companies fail to meet minimum medical care standards by dispensing drugs through the Internet based solely on online questionnaires and consultations.

The guidelines suggest that physicians transmit only password-protected, encrypted prescriptions, and that physicians be licensed in the states where their patients live, or meet the regulatory requirements of their patients` state medical boards.

Drugstore.com says it supports the AMA`s guidelines, noting that online operations that don`t meet the guidelines can hurt the overall online pharmacy industry. "They cast a pall on those online pharmacies that do follow all the regulations," a spokesman says. Drugstore.com meets all the standards and regulations set by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, he adds.

The AMA`s guidelines also suggest that physicians operating online:
-- conduct adequate dialogue with patients about treatment options, risks and benefits;
-- follow up with a patient as appropriate;
-- maintain an updated medical record that is readily available to the patient and to his or her other health care professionals;
-- include the electronic prescription information as part of a patient`s medical record;
-- clearly disclose physician-identifying information on the web such as name, practice address and financial interests in any products prescribed.


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