October 18, 2016
While the federal government and naturopathic healers everywhere try to battle against the widening opioid epidemic that is affecting millions of people, a significant number of physicians, it has been discovered, aren’t really assisting the effort as much as they’re supposed to be.
Fox News Health reports some 12,000 physicians in the state of Ohio alone who are supposed to be checking their patients’ prescription histories – aren’t.
Doctors are expected to consult a state-maintained web site before they recommend any opioid-based painkillers for their patients. But a new audit has found that thousands appear to be violating the policy that is designed to help stem the opioid epidemic.
One-third of all doctors in the state may be violating policy
The audit, completed in August by the state’s Pharmacy Board, pinpointed the doctors who either were not yet registered on the site or failed to properly use it. In recent days the investigating panel handed the list over to the Ohio Medical Board, the licensing agency for physicians. The board has since sent each offending physician a letter warning them of the potential violations.
The 12,000 figure represents some one-third of all doctors in the state.
The audit and resultant warnings to doctors come as Ohio deals with its own opioid crisis, in which eight people a day die from overdoses. Part of that, officials said, is because of ready access to prescription opioid painkillers.
Tessie Pollack, a Medical Board spokesperson, said that her organization’s priority will be some 45 physicians who have reportedly been providing painkillers to more than 200 patients during August without performing the required checks.
Fox News noted that the Pharmacy Board audit discovered that the top 25 doctors on the list did not run the required report on some 7,500 patients. This list included one doctor who handed out prescription painkillers to 705 patients in a single month without doing a single required check.
Pollack noted that the most serious violators may face a suspension or revoked license, along with probation and fines. The board noted that many of the violations may turn out to be mild, so the board wants to enjoin its enforcement crackdown with a program to education physicians, in order to help them understand how to use the site.
Officials with the Ohio State Medical Association, which represents doctors, say they don’t believe that 12,000 doctors are in violation of the law.
“We’re certainly supportive of the Medical and Pharmacy boards taking these periodic looks and making sure people are in compliance, but it’s really a checks-and-balances kind of thing,” Reggie Fields, an association spokesman, told Fox News Health.
He added that the medical community understands the size and scope of the opiate addiction epidemic in Ohio, and he says he supports the rule requiring tracking of prescription painkillers.
‘We need all hands on deck’
The Food and Drug Administration, on its web site, acknowledged the opioid epidemic and said it has developed “a comprehensive action plan” to reduce opioid over-prescribing and abuse. Part of that plan includes gathering data on painkiller prescriptions.
“As part of this plan, the agency is committing to work more closely with its advisory committees before making critical product and labeling decisions; enhancing safety labeling; requiring new data; and seeking to improve treatment of both addiction and pain,” the agency said.
Dr. Mark Hurst, the medical director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addition Services, said the problem of opioid abuse won’t be solved “unilaterally” by a single entity or agency.
“It requires communities, it requires families, it requires individuals, it requires schools,” he said, Fox News Health reported in a separate story. “If we’re really going to make good progress and sustain progress on this, we need all hands on deck.”