Doctor shopping is the practice of visiting multiple physicians to obtain multiple prescriptions for otherwise illegal drugs. It’s a common practice of drug addicts and suppliers of drug addicts. A recent study done by HealthDay News showed that one in five patient previously operated on for broken bones or other orthopedic trauma shopped around for additional painkillers after surgery. The use of narcotic painkillers for nonmedical purposes is a serious concern in the United States. Unintentional overdose deaths increased 124 percent from 1999 to 2007 largely because of prescription narcotics, according to background information in the study.
“Doctor shopping puts doctors in the uncomfortable position of playing private eye,” said Dr. Lance Longo, medical director of Addiction Psychiatry at Aurora Behavioral Health Services in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “We’re trained to relieve pain and suffering. Unfortunately, with the widespread misuse of controlled substances and diversion risks, we’re often taken advantage of.”
Doctor shoppers often visit facilities where medical professionals don’t know them, experts say. “They also call during weekends or ask for prescription refills using excuses such as having dropped the pills in toilets or getting pills wet on a camping trip”, physicians said.
The misuse of prescription drugs is a growing problem, but one important way to help identify patients who are doctor-shopping is by using a prescription drug-monitoring program. Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) are state-run electronic databases used to track the prescribing and dispensing of controlled prescription drugs to patients. They are designed to monitor this information for suspected abuse or diversion (i.e., channeling drugs into illegal use), and can give prescriber or pharmacist critical information regarding a patient’s controlled substance prescription history. This information can help prescribers and pharmacists identify patients at high-risk who would benefit from early interventions.
To prevent doctor shopping, Physicians and patients have to work together to establish reasonable expectations for pain control and to identify at-risk patients early on to allow appropriate interventions.
If you have chronic pain, call Dr. Adrian C. Dumitru. He’s a board certified and fellowship trained pain management specialist. To learn more, or to schedule an appointment please call (713) 461-8555 or visit www.houstonpainservices.com