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Study Estimates that 4.3 Million Prescriptions for Painkillers Were Diverted to Illicit Use by "Doctor Shoppers"
Date:7/17/2013

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., July 17, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Almost one percent of all buyers of addictive pain medications in the U.S. were estimated to be "doctor shoppers" who bought large amounts, presumably for illicit use, according to a study from Abt Associates published today in the journal PLOS ONE.  This is the first national estimate of opioid medications obtained by persons who seek prescriptions for the same drugs from different physicians without telling them about other prescribers. 

One out of every 143 patients who purchased opioid painkillers from retail pharmacies in 2008 received a suspiciously large number of prescriptions from multiple prescribers -- an average of 32 prescriptions from 10 different doctors. 

Although they constituted a small portion of patients prescribed opioids, they purchased an estimated 4.3 million prescriptions, or almost 2 percent of all prescriptions for highly controlled opioids, amounting to about 4 percent of all opioids by weight. 

Abuse of prescription opioids -- commonly known as painkillers -- is linked to rising numbers of overdose deaths and admissions to emergency departments and treatment facilities.  In the absence of adequate patient information systems, individuals can go "doctor shopping" to get excessive quantities of drugs for their own use and abuse as well as for selling to others.  

Researchers Douglas McDonald and Kenneth Carlson of Abt Associates examined a nationwide sample of 146.1 million opioid prescriptions dispensed during 2008 by 76% of U.S. retail pharmacies.

Although getting prescriptions from several different physicians may signal dangerously uncoordinated care rather than fraud, researchers said that most "patients" who get an average of 32 prescriptions from nearly a dozen different doctors in one year are probably de
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SOURCE Abt Associates
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