Doctors Call For Stronger Prescription Drug Control Measures

MostBingeDrinkersNeverConsultwithDoctorsAboutDrinkingMuch has been done to combat abuse of prescription drugs in this country: Drug companies have changed formulations to make their medications less appealing to abusers; law enforcement has cracked down on medical offices which act as a front for supplying drugs; and most states have implemented some form of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) to keep track of who writes what prescriptions and who is getting those prescriptions filled. But a group of doctors writing to their peers are suggesting that there is more which can be done.

In a paper published in the Annals of Internal Medicine doctors have made a number of recommendations that could help reduce the amount of abuse. The doctors were especially concerned about implementing tighter reins on medications such as sleep drugs, pain relievers, and weight loss medications.

In a review of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data the doctors found that abuse of prescription medications may be the number one reason behind accidental deaths in America. Sometimes these problems occur while taking drugs under a doctor’s supervision, but a significant number of them take place when people are using the drugs for non-medical purposes. A 2010 National Institute on Drug Abuse survey found that 16 million Americans over age 12 had used prescription-strength sedatives, stimulants, pain relievers or tranquilizers for recreational purposes in the year prior.

The position paper is aimed at policy makers as well as at front-line healthcare providers. The paper outlines 10 specific recommendations. Most of the recommendations are common sense:

  • Better education for doctors, patients and the general public about the potential dangers associated with using these medications
  • Using opioids (the most often abused pain relievers) as a treatment of last resort for pain management
  • Use of evidence-based prescription guidelines which would be considered nonbinding
  • Implementing a nationwide PDMP so that it would be easier to find which doctors over-prescribe and which patients are prone to abuse.

The challenge for doctors is to safeguard patient access to appropriate treatment and yet weigh those concerns against the potential for abuse. How much medicine, for how long and to whom are serious questions when there is a climate of prescription drug abuse. The suggested administrative and clinical changes are substantive without being revolutionary and could make a difference in the fight against prescription drug abuse.

Posted on October 7th, 2014

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