Swiss chiropractors have been licensed since 1995 to prescribe from a limited formulary of medications for treating musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions. In January 2018, this formulary was expanded to include additional muscle relaxant, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory medications. Internationally, controversy remains over whether or not medication prescribing should be pursued within the chiropractic profession.
The purpose of this study was to assess Swiss chiropractors’ attitudes, beliefs, and practices regarding their existing medication prescription privileges. This information will provide new insights on the topic and help inform research and policy discussions about expanding chiropractic prescription rights in other jurisdictions.
A 13-item questionnaire and Q-methodology approach were used to conduct the assessment. Recruitment was conducted by e-mail between December 2019 and February 2020, and all members of the Swiss Chiropractic Association were eligible to participate. Data were analyzed using by-person factor analysis and descriptive statistics.
In total, 187 Swiss chiropractors participated in this study (65.4% response rate). Respondents reported prescribing analgesics, anti-inflammatories, and muscle relaxants to a median of 5, 5, and 0% of patients, respectively. Forty-two percent of respondents expressed interest in further expanding the range of current medications available to Swiss chiropractors for treating MSK conditions. Only 15% expressed interest in expanding this range to include medications for treating non-MSK conditions. In the Q-methodology analysis, four salient viewpoints/groups regarding medication prescribing emerged:
prescribers, non-prescribers, collaborators, and integrators. All except non-prescribersthought medication prescription privileges were advantageous for the chiropractic profession in Switzerland. There was also strong consensus among all four groups that medication prescribing should not replace manual therapy in chiropractic practice. Conclusion
This was the first national survey on attitudes toward prescribing medications among Swiss chiropractors since the year 2000, and the first using Q-methodology. With this approach, four unique groups of chiropractic prescribers were identified. Even with diversity among clinicians, the findings of this study showed general support for, along with conservative use of, prescribing privileges within the Swiss chiropractic profession. Studies in jurisdictions outside of Switzerland are needed to assess whether chiropractors are interested in expanding their scopes of practice to include similar prescribing privileges.