Veterans Affairs Doctors Prescribed Drugs For Patients They Did Not See

on Friday, 27 December 2013. Posted in Voices in Recovery, Breaking News, Prescription Drugs

Veterans Affair Doctors Prescribing Painkillers

The use of opiates has been under more scrutiny because of the dramatic rise in their sales. Opiates are generally prescribed as painkillers for people as a short-term solution to alleviate intense pain. Patients who have undergone surgery and cancer treatments are generally the groups of people who get prescribed the most painkillers. The abuse of painkillers has become of great concern because of the rise of emergency room visits due to overdosing on prescription drugs. Some of these overdoses have even resulted in death. Because of these statistics, doctors are also being viewed with greater scrutiny, and the methods they use to prescribe prescription drugs. Harmful side effects of opiate abuse include:

  • Nerve damage
  • Diarrhea
  • Shaking
  • Chills

San Francisco VA Hospital Under Close Scrutiny
One alarming case that has recently made the news is the prescription of painkillers to patients that the doctors never consult in person at the San Francisco VA hospital. Reportedly doctors at the hospital would renew prescription for painkillers for patients that they never saw in person. As a result of the lax monitoring of the patients who were taking these painkillers, seven of them overdosed on the opiates. This report coincides with the surge of prescription drugs given out by doctors to patients on a national level.

The doctors at the VA Medical Center routinely prescribed opiates such as methadone and oxycodone to patients. Furthermore, it was alleged that the doctors were encouraged by hospital administration to prescribe opiates to patients on a regular basis. This unethical behavior has been condemned and also reveals an underlying problem with the access patients have to their doctors. But since it’s technically not illegal for doctors to prescribe drugs to patients they don’t see, they have not broken any specific laws.

Patients Have A Hard Time Seeing Doctors
But what this has revealed is problems in the way the San Francisco VA hospital is run. When interviewed about the hospital, veterans reveal that while they can get prescription painkillers pretty easily, it can take up to four months to actually see a doctor in person. Veterans who have to deal with life altering injuries because of their time serving the country have to wait extended periods of time before they can see a specialist. This is especially troubling, because of the lack of monitoring that is being done on patients who are routinely prescribed these drugs. This has resulted in a string of prescription drug overdoses.

Overdoses Have Occurred As A Result Of Prescription Painkillers
Because of the lack of monitoring that goes on when pertaining to the patients who are prescribed the painkillers, some overdoses have occurred. One patient was prescribed three times the amount he should’ve been given and ended up in the hospital in critical condition. He was prescribed an increasing amount of painkillers because of falls he kept taking, and as a result eventually overdosed. This seems to be a direct result of this patient not being able to consult with a doctor directly about the amount of painkillers that he’s been prescribed.

State officials have launched a thorough investigation regarding these problems with opiates. They are trying to hold the hospital accountable for their rampant prescription of painkillers. But the problems at San Francisco VA hospital seem to be a microcosm of the same issues that are going on in hospitals around the United States. The use of prescription drugs has skyrocketed since 1999, and has resulted in more patients overdosing than ever on opiates. Officials are calling on medical professionals to monitor patients more carefully who are prescribed painkillers, to make sure they are only given safe amounts over an appropriate period of time.

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

Cindy Nichols is the founder of 411 Intervention, a full-service intervention resource that helps individuals with addiction issues find treatment solutions. You can see an interview with Cindy here on Recovery Now TV.

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