Doctor shopping is the practice of seeking prescriptions for medications such as opioids from multiple doctors in a short period of time. In this way, prescription-seekers can obtain their drugs legally and in large quantities. A new study shows that while this practice accounts for a relatively small percentage of total opioid prescriptions, obsolete data management systems are allowing it to persist. Furthermore, as prescription opioid abuse continues to grow, doctor shopping could grow with it unless new measures are put in place to prevent the practice.
According to the study, doctor shoppers accounted for:
- 0.7% of patients with opioid prescriptions
- 2% of purchases of opioid prescriptions
- 4% of purchase of opioids measured by weight
The study’s data points included:
- 146.1 million records of opioid prescriptions, dispensed by,
- 76% of retail pharmacies in 2008
- prescriptions for 9 opioid drugs written by
- 908,000 prescribers for
- 48.4 million patients.
The study found that while the vast majority of people prescribed opioids appeared to be doing so for legitimate use, a small group of 135,000 obtained prescriptions from an average of 10 prescribers in a 10-month period. Though the study could not determine with certainty that everyone in this group was engaging in doctor shopping or prescription opioid abuse, its demographics corresponded with likely drug users. “For instance, the age distribution of this group peaked between ages 26 and 35. This distribution corresponds to the age range with the highest prevalence of self-reported prescription drug abuse in the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.”
Furthermore, “even among the groups of patients with legitimate chronic pain complaints, substantial numbers are getting opioid prescriptions from several prescribers. This signals potentially dangerous, uncoordinated care, and these patients may be at risk for medical complications or overdose.” The study’s authors noted that shortcomings in patient data management systems were allowing patients to engage in doctor shopping with relative ease. They noted that if these systems were improved, health care providers would be better equipped to prevent doctor shopping and prescription opioid abuse.
If you or someone you know has an addiction to prescription medications, there is help available. The Bergand Group is an addiction treatment center located in Baltimore, MD. Our therapists have more than twenty years of experience in the mental health and addiction fields. Our focus is on providing comprehensive mental health care and appropriate care for addictive disorders. We offer both alcohol treatment and drug treatment. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol or substance addiction, there is help available. We also offer several other services, including family therapy and counseling. To speak with someone at our office, please call us at 410-853-7691. You can also contact us via email, and follow us on Facebook, Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn.