Some Doctors Have Concerns About Prescription Monitoring Programs in Fighting Opioid Epidemic
As the opioid epidemic in the United States has become not just a health issue, but a political one as well, lawmakers across the country have established different prescription drug monitoring programs to keep patients from “doctor-shopping” and obtaining prescription opioids from multiple sources.
Some medical professionals support such measures, including emergency room physicians, who often encounter patients attempting to obtain prescriptions for opioid pain medications.
But physicians in other specialties in at least one state have concerns that regulatory oversight will interfere with the doctor-patient relationship and do little to curb the opioid epidemic, according to research from Georgia State University and other institutions.
Dr. Eric Wright, a professor of sociology and public health, along with colleagues, surveyed physicians and other health care providers in Indiana and examined their attitudes toward the Indiana Scheduled Prescription Electronic Collection and Tracking (INSPECT) program. The study analyzed the responses supplied by the 2,444 licensed physicians who completed the survey.
The study found “significant variation” in attitudes among physicians.
“Doctors who have higher levels of professional status, who are older and who prescribe more opioids are more likely to have concerns about this form of expanded government intervention in the practice of medicine,” Wright said.
Previous studies have found that physicians who specialize in geriatrics are more concerned with pain management for their patients than concerns about potential abuse, and pain management specialists report the greatest comfort prescribing opioids for chronic pain.
Across specialties, most doctors who responded to the survey indicated support for law enforcement access to prescription databases, but they felt such access should require a warrant or other court order to support the investigation of a specific case, rather than blanket access.
The findings are published in the paper “Professional Status and Physicians’ Views of Expanding Government Oversight of Prescribing Drugs,” in the journal Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World.
The other authors are Neal A. Carnes, a sociology student at Georgia State, Wyndy Greene Smelser, principal at WGS Consulting, and Ben Lennox Kail, an assistant professor of sociology at Georgia State.