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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Doctor Shopping Big Business

The prescription drug abuse epidemic is a major concern on many fronts. In America, thousands of drug addicts see doctors every day to acquire prescription narcotics from doctors who seem to care little about where the drugs end up. “Doctor shoppers” bought an estimated 4.3 million prescriptions for opioids such as Vicodin and OxyContin in 2008, a new study finds.

Individuals who visit multiple doctors are known as “doctor shoppers;” they will sometimes visit more than one doctor in a given day to obtain prescriptions, representing almost 1 percent of all buyers of addictive pain medications in the United States in 2008.

The think tank Abt Associates, conducted the first national estimate of doctor shopping in the country, the researchers said.

“There’s a hole in our prescription control system in the United States,” study co-author Douglas McDonald told HealthDay. “Lacking a universal health record, doctors have to rely on what patients tell them about what they’ve been prescribed by other doctors.” This means “doctor shoppers can get multiple prescriptions for the same drug if they lie to their physician,” he said.

Researchers found that one out of every 143 patients who filled drug prescriptions received an unusually large number of prescriptions. Such patients acquired an average of 32 prescriptions from 10 different doctors; despite prescription drug monitoring programs designed to detect doctor shopping.

 “There are patients who have doctored MRI results, they go from doctor to doctor and show this falsified MRI record that shows they have a bone spur in their neck and they are in intense pain”, McDonald said.

The study is published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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