Primary Care Doctors Are Main Prescribers of Painkillers
Prescription narcotic painkiller abuse is at an all-time high in America, and a new study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, finds that primary care physicians are by far the biggest prescribers of the drugs.
Researchers at Stanford University looked at data from 2013 Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage claims. They focused on prescriptions for narcotic painkillers containing hydrocodone (drugs such as Vicodin), oxycodone (Oxycontin and Percocet), codeine and others in this class, known as opioids.
Family practice doctors issued 15.3 million prescriptions for the drugs, and internal medicine physicians (another type of primary care doctor) issued 12.8 million. In addition, nurse practitioners wrote 4.1 million prescriptions for narcotic painkillers while physician assistants ordered up 3.1 million.
The U.S. has seen a 10-fold increase in the abuse of narcotic painkillers over the past two decades. Some experts have suggested that small groups of high-volume prescribers and so-called “pill mills” are the main reasons for the narcotic painkiller overdose epidemic. But this study indicates that those over-prescribers are not necessarily the root of the problem.
The researchers recommended that more education about opioids is needed for health care professsionals and that less habit-forming medications be used instead, wherever possible.
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