• Health Care Professionals Concerned About Prescription Medication Abuse
  • March 12, 2015 | Author: Stephen J. Burg
  • Law Firm: Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine, P.C. - Englewood Office
  • There has been growing concern among health care professionals regarding the increased amount of prescription pain medication abuse, according to a recent study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. In fact, 90 percent of primary care physicians participating in the survey felt prescription drug abuse was a problem in their communities.

    Opioids are prescribed pain medications. Some of the most common forms are codeine, morphine, oxyContin and vicodin.

    The study was led by G. Caleb Alexander, M.D., M.S., associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public health and codirector of the Johns Hopkins Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness. For the study, Alexander's team sent surveys to 1,000 internists, family physicians and general practitioners across the country.

    While the problem has been growing for some time, it is only recently that health care professionals are taking steps to alleviate it, with half of the study's participants saying they will be less likely to prescribe opioids in the future.

    "Our findings suggest that primary care providers have become aware of the scope of the prescription opioid crisis and are responding in ways that are important, including reducing their over-reliance on these medicines," Alexander said. "The health care community has long been part of the problem, and now they appear to be part of the solution to this complex epidemic."

    According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prescription drug overdose rates increased 117 percent between 1999 and 2012. Additionally, an average of 114 people die each day from a prescription drug overdose and almost 80 percent of those are accidental.

    Dangerous cocktails

    A problem with many of these powerful drugs is that they are not being prescribed alone. Many doctors prescribe opioid pain killers along with a range of other medicines, according to a new report "A Nation in Pain" by Express Scripts

    The researchers of the study looked at 36 million pharmacy claims by 6.8 million insured Americans of all ages between 2009 and 2013. The results revealed almost 60 percent of patients relying on opioids were also taking a combination of medications, many of which were dangerous and potentially fatal. The most common death from an overdose involved a mixture of an opioid with benzodiazepines, or anti-anxiety medications. One in three of the patients were prescribed this mixture.

    Dr. Holly Phillips, CBS News medical contributor, shared her thoughts on the study with CBS. Phillips was not part of the Express Scripts research.

    "People who take the combinations most likely got them from more than one doctor or filled them at more than one pharmacy," Phillips said. "It's a technique we call 'doctor shopping,' where the patient gets a prescription from several doctors and the doctors aren't aware that each is prescribing."

    CBS noted prescription drug registries were created in 49 states in the attempt to decrease prescription drug abuses. However, many doctors do not use them.