Doctor-Prescribed Opioid Drugs Lead to Half of Prescription Painkiller Overdoses
A new study of emergency room visits for drug overdoses shows that opioid prescription painkiller overdoses are a “substantial burden” on hospitals and the economy – and many of those prescription painkiller overdoses are due to drugs prescribed by doctors, not stolen from pharmacies or sold through pill mills.
“Opioid [narcotic] overdose exacts a significant financial and health care utilization burden on the U.S. health care system. Most patients in our sample overdosed on prescription opioids, suggesting that further efforts to stem the prescription opioid overdose epidemic are urgently needed,” the researchers wrote. The study was conducted at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
The leading cause of injury deaths in the US is, in fact, prescription painkiller overdose. Overdosing on prescription painkillers kills more people than car accidents, which were the leading cause of death in the US prior to 2009. In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control declared prescription painkiller overdose to be an epidemic.
The researchers found that fewer than 2% of the prescription painkiller overdoses admitted to the hospital were fatal, but in more than half the overdose numbers, the patients had to be admitted to the hospital for treatment.
The prescription painkiller addiction and overdose epidemic has, for many years, been blamed on theft from friends or family members who may have been prescribed painkillers for chronic ailments, or theft from pharmacies, pill mills (many of which are being shut down by proactive states), and the drug black market. However, a 2012 Los Angeles Times investigation found that, of 3,733 fatalities due to prescription painkiller overdose, half of the deaths were due to a doctor’s prescription.
The epidemic throws current prescribing practices into question. Doctors often prescribe painkillers in the emergency room for people who have had a serious accident, as well as after minor surgery, including minor dental surgery. Some recent studies have suggested that doctors, in an effort to help patients heal, sometimes prescribe too high a dose and that can lead to prescription painkiller overdose or death.
The latest study found that people with breathing, heart, or mental problems were at highest risk of overdosing on prescription painkillers, which suggests better physical exams and more thorough mental screening before prescribing drugs would help doctors avoid overdose hospital admittances.
“That suggests that when a clinician writes a prescription for opioid painkillers for someone with one of these conditions, they need to do so with care,” said Michael Yokell, a Stanford University medical student and one of the researchers. “They need to think about alternatives … And if they choose opioids, they need to have a conversation … about the risk of overdose.”
If you are a doctor who prescribes painkillers and you are accused of over-prescribing controlled medication, or one of your patients has suffered a prescription painkiller overdose and been hospitalized or died, then you may face questions about your professional license. Similarly, Federal law prevents a doctor from over-prescribing controlled medication.
LLR Disciplinary board and administrative actions can originate in many ways including a complaint by:
- A patient or family member of a patient,
- A client,
- A co-worker or your employer, or
- A spouse or significant other.
While the complaint will vary and depend upon the profession, allegations may include neglect, malpractice, incompetence, and substandard care or treatment.
Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you are contacted by an LLR investigator or the US Attorney’s office, you should contact the South Carolina professional licensing defense attorneys at the Strom Law Firm, LLC for a free consultation to discuss your legal rights. 803.252.4800