Painkillers: Doctor Shopping Still An Issue

on Thursday, 21 June 2012. Posted in Breaking News, Oxycontin, Prescription Drugs

doctor shopping prescription drug abuse

Although more people are becoming aware of prescription painkiller abuse, the problem doesn’t seem to be getting much better.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention more than 14,000 deaths due to overdose occurred in 2008. This is more than that of heroin and cocaine deaths together.

A common method called “doctor shopping” is typically used by people to obtain large amounts of pills. They are able to get multiple prescriptions written for the same drugs by visiting several different doctors. However, some states already have programs in place to help monitor the amount of prescriptions written to individuals.

For instance, Florida has a database in place, which keeps track of prescription narcotics written to people. Before writing certain prescriptions, the doctors are required to check the database to ensure the patient has not already been given a supply.

Massachusetts is moving to enact a policy which will require doctors to justify any prescription written for painkillers that exceed a 30 day supply.

According to the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws, over 40 states already have some type of system in place to help keep track of prescription drugs. The goal is to have pharmacies keep track and upload patient’s prescription history for doctors to before writing prescriptions.

In theory, the methods are great, but they are not always being used. Most of these programs remain voluntary, and some clinicians are not trained to access them, or unaware of them completely. There are still many flaws to work out with the system. Some are not maintained and updated regularly enough. Others complain that the systems are too difficult and time consuming to use by already busy clinicians.

Former president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine, Perry Fine, feels that is in the patient’s best interest for their doctors to be aware of all the drugs they are taking. According to Fine, the system in place in Utah is fairly easy to use, but realizes this is not the case in some other states. “Because they’re not very functional or accessible or complete, overall utilization hasn’t been very great,” said Fine. He hopes that overtime the system will improve and catch on, but went on to say that for now, “they’re not mainstream.”

We are beginning to see more states push for these systems though. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign legislation requiring doctors to use computers instead of paper when writing prescriptions. The prescriptions would then promptly be loaded into a statewide database. This would make it much more difficult for more than one prescription for the same drug slip by the system.

Although there is much work to be done, and a lot of improvements to be made, the database is in the works, and more and more states will begin to see the system put into action.

If you or someone you know is struggling with prescription drug addiction, please contact us.

Original article: npr.org

Photo courtesy of flickr.com

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