How Responsible are Doctors and Pharmacists for Prescription Drug Addiction?

A recent West Virginia Supreme Court ruling could potentially impact the fate of physicians and pharmacists throughout the state. A 3-2 vote made it legal for addicts to sue their doctor or pharmacist for allowing the person to become addicted to prescription painkillers. Since the decision was made the medical community and the general public are divided over the future implications of this decision.

Prescription drug abuse has long since reached epidemic proportions and in states like West Virginia, and thousands of people are dying because of their addiction to painkillers. Because of the extreme gravity and speed that prescription painkillers are taking over people’s lives, extreme decisions like the one made in the West Virginia may be called for.

One of the most common ways that addicts acquire their prescription painkillers is through doctor-shopping. This means that they go from doctor to doctor complaining of ailments and receive prescriptions to various narcotics. Many states have instituted a prescription monitoring programs in an attempt to avoid excessive doctor-shopping and other forms of prescription drug fraud. The tool that can be accessed by other doctors and pharmacists is designed to allow doctors to input the information from their visit with a patient as well as review the patient’s prescription drug history.

The decision to allow people who become addicted to prescription drugs to sue doctors and pharmacists is extreme but will likely give many professionals pause before liberally prescribing prescription painkillers.

“It may cause some physicians to curb or stop treating pain altogether for fear of retribution should treatment lead to patient addiction and/or criminal behavior. It may create additional barriers for patients seeking treatment for legitimate chronic pain due to reduced access to physician. It would allow criminals to potentially profit for their wrongful conduct by taking doctors and pharmacists to court,” explained The West Virginia Medical Association in response to the new ruling.

It could be very difficult to prove that a particular doctor or pharmacist was the cause of someone’s addiction, yet there is no doubt that the prescribing industry has certainly played its part, whether knowingly or unknowingly, in the escalation of the prescription drug problem in America.

Senate Looking For Ways To Prevent Prescription Drug Abuse

aphaThe Senate has formed a committee called HELP (Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions), that is geared to preventing prescription drug abuse. The committee recently heard from the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) ways that the Senate could curb the amount of prescription drug abuse in our nation. The APhA recommended several ways in which the U.S. government could put a significant dent in the growing painkiller epidemic.

The APhA told the Senate that the DEA needed to be more vocal about health professionals’ roles and the expectations that the DEA had for them. It is a relatively new concept that primary care providers and other healthcare workers be included in those who are needed to fight the prescription drug abuse battle. Healthcare facilities all over the country have begun doing their own drug abuse screenings and establishing new policies that are intended to eliminate or significantly lower the amount of doctor shopping that occurs. However, the healthcare facilities that are taking these measures are doing so on their own, with no government regulation, and they are certainly not mandated to take these sorts of steps. The APhA recommended that the DEA step in and regulate these measures and include healthcare facilities that are not taking steps to preventing prescription drug abuse.

The group also recommended that the government support and increase the amount of sites established to safely dispose of prescription drugs. It is well known that many addicts get their start on prescription drugs by finding the pills in a medicine cabinet and begin experimenting. If the government supports and initiates more sites devoted to safe disposal, it is likely that those prescriptions will be kept out of the hands of a potential addict.

These recommendations and more were presented to the Senate by Michal Spira. In addition to hearing Mr. Spira’s talk, the Senate also heard suggestions from the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy, American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, National Community Pharmacists Association, and National Association of Chan Drug Stores. All of this was in an attempt to lower the amount of dangerous prescription drugs available to children and teens throughout the country.