Prescription painkillers have been the fuel to the heroin epidemic for the past 15 years. Painkillers have been liberally prescribed ever since the push to relieve all people of pain during the late 1990's. Since then, hydrocodone, a narcotic painkiller has become the most prescribed medication in the country. Statistically, most homes will have painkillers prescribed to them sometime during the past 5 years. Many patients are prescribed these strong and addictive medications for legitimate pain, but does the pain necessarily call for a narcotic drug? That is a question that has been brought up frequently over the last few years as these medications get looked at more seriously.
Lives have been lost due to the opiate epidemic all over the world. The United States has been affected the most and there is no town in this country that does not have a problem. Speaking with thousands of people a year from all over the country, every person tells me that I would not believe how bad it is in their town. The truth is, it is bad everywhere. Since this problem has gotten so out of hand, federal and state governments have made huge progress in trying to fight the problem. It is not as easy as it once was to abuse prescription painkillers and many doctors refuse to prescribe the medications because of the strict liability behind them. Of course this is causing problems for patients who have legit severe pain because it is hard for them to find a good doctor that will treat their pain.
Many states have adopted prescription drug monitoring systems. These systems were put into place to stop “doctor shopping” and to monitor the prescribing of medications. Doctor shopping is when a patient will go to several doctors in search of prescription narcotics. The PMDS allows doctors and pharmacists to look at the prescriptions their patients are already prescribed to make sure they are not abusing their medication. This greatly helps curb the issue by keeping an eye on the prescribing practices of physicians.
Twenty five physicians and health care providers in Rhode Island prescribed Oxycodone more than 5,600 times in one year under Medicare. The top prescriber of that group, who was listed as having 384 Medicare claims for Oxycodone HCL in 2012, was reprimanded by the Rhode Island Department of Health in 2014 for the “off-label” use of another drug and for “poor record keeping.” Combined, the top three physicians for Oxycodone prescription in Rhode Island were one fifth of the top twenty five prescribers. Their total retail cost for all prescriptions filled under Medicare was $1.7 million dollars.
Over-prescribing needs to come with very hard penalties. Dirty doctors are legal drug dealers pushing extremely dangerous and addictive drugs. Their negligence affects everyone that is involved and the penalties should be extreme for doctors abusing the system.