It is estimated that 20 percent of people in the United States have used prescription drugs for reasons other than medical. This is prescription drug abuse and it is a serious problem that is growing. Possible reasons for the increase in prescription drug abuse may include the easy availability of drugs, doctors prescribing more drugs than ever before, and online pharmacies making it easier for people to obtain prescription drugs even when they do not have a prescription.
California lawmakers are attempting to stop prescription drug abuse by trying to identify doctors who recklessly prescribe narcotics. In an effort to be proactive in determining which doctors are overprescribing by having the medical board actively look for patterns of reckless prescribing in the state’s database, CURES, rather than simply investigating in response to complaints.
Currently the database is used mainly for the purpose of identifying “doctor shopping” addicts, who obtain multiple prescriptions from different doctors so they can feed their prescription drug habit. But this type of identification is done on a limited basis due to the technical shortcomings of the system and the limited resources of the medical board to mine the database for such data.
The use of CURES to identify doctors who are abusing their prescribing powers is controversial. Some physician groups are concerned that using CURES in this way may discourage doctors from prescribing medications for legitimate reasons. Some on the medical board believe that it is clear that doctors in California are prescribing too many dangerous narcotics. However, they believe that the over prescription is due to mandatory physician training that emphasizes the use of drugs to treat pain despite the lack of evidence that they have a long term benefit for patients. If this is the case then re-education may be the solution.
Family members of people who have overdosed on prescription drugs do not believe that the medical board is doing enough to stop doctors from overprescribing drugs to their patients. Parents of children who fatally overdosed are upset that the doctors who prescribed drugs to their children are still practicing. One parent said that the medical board needs should be stopping “dangerous doctors who fail to adhere to their own industry standard.”
Most doctors prescribe drugs in order to help patients, but the over prescription of drugs by some doctors is a problem. Identifying those doctors that are causing harm to patients through over prescription is important, especially when it leads to the death of a patient.
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