Caretakers in the crosshairs?

This blog has previously discussed the need to balance the goal of reducing the number of opiate prescriptions that end up misused with the need to provide good pain management for patients with chronic pain.

Prosecutors are stepping in:

Fatal overdoses from prescription painkillers more than tripled to 13,800 in the United States in 1999 through 2006, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Consequently, more doctors are finding themselves in the sights of prosecutors as states like Florida and Georgia confront the growth in abuse of prescription drugs. The prosecution of doctors is seen as more effective than bringing cases against their patients.

It’s even worse than that. ODs are up 500% since 1990.

Here’s another stat I find striking:

Between 15 and 20 percent of patient visits with physicians the U.S. include a prescription for an opioid

But, is this a new witch-hunt against docs? Doesn’t look that way:

Reuters tallied around 37 reported criminal cases in the decade from 2001 to 2011, with most recent cases against doctors for over-prescribing painkillers and other controlled substances.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration information suggests a similar trend. For 2003, the agency reported 15 physician arrests that resulted in convictions. By 2008, the most recent year with comprehensive data, the number had grown to 43.

In a country with more than 950,000 active physicians, these prosecution rates do not seem unduly high.

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