Incidents of prescription drug dependency and overdose are a major issue in the state of New York, and it's important that physicians and patients both understand how serious the problem is around the country. The findings of a recent survey suggest that a large demographic of patients may be vulnerable to serious medical errors as a result of being prescribed opioid painkillers from multiple sources.
The types of opioid medications typically prescribed by physicians in the U. S. include Vicodin, oxycodone, and morphine sulfate. Not only is it estimated that the number of prescriptions for such painkillers has risen to 200 million a year, but the number of elderly adults using prescription painkillers on a long-term basis has gone up by four percent in less than a decade. And as more patients are issued prescriptions from multiple physicians, the risk of them experiencing serious and potentially life-threatening injuries and complications also increases.
According to the results of a study conducted by researchers with the Harvard Medical School, more than 30 percent of Medicare patients signed up with the Part D prescription drug plan received painkiller prescriptions from a minimum of two physicians. In fact, at least four doctors were found to be prescribing opioid medications to the same patient in almost 8 percent of cases. In the course of conducting the study, researchers also determined that there may be a correlation between hospitalization rates and the number of sources prescribing medications to patients.
If it is true that receiving prescriptions for painkillers from multiple physicians increases the risk that a patient may be hospitalized, there may also be a correlation between the number of prescription providers used and incidents of medical malpractice.
Source: utahpeoplespost.com, “Over 30 percent Medicare beneficiaries consult multiple doctors for painkillers,” Amanda Pierce, Feb. 22, 2014