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Do Doctors Write Too Many Prescriptions?

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Are American doctors too Rx-happy?

As the government issues new warnings about the rise in prescription drug abuse, over half (52%) of Americans believe that doctors are too loose when it comes to dishing out prescriptions, according to a new survey. The survey, carried out by news, polling and social media site Poll Position, showed little difference between Republican voters (54%) and Democrats (55%) who were critical of physicians.

Of those who took part in the survey, men and African-Americans felt strongest about this topic.  Around 53% of men and 59% of African Americans thought too many prescription drugs were given out by doctors;  51% of women agreed with that statement.

Some experts believe that it isn’t just doctors at fault. There is also increased demand from patients, helped by aggressive advertising by pharmaceutical companies. Ann Woloson, executive director of of the U.S. Prescription Policy Choices, a non-profit consumer advocacy group based in Washington D.C. that campaigns for more affordable prices, says prescriptions for psychotropic medication in children and adolescents increased five-fold in the U.S. over the last decade helped by the marketing of such drugs. That’s nearly twice the rate in many European countries. “More needs to be done to counter the marketing of unnecessary drugs,” says Woloson.

Over-prescribing can lead to unused drug lying around, which fuels misuse, experts say. “Prescription drug abuse is a silent epidemic that is stealing thousands of lives and tearing apart communities and families across America”, Gil Kerlikowske, director of the government’s National Drug Control Policy, said in a statement Monday. “Parents and grandparents should properly dispose of any unneeded or expired medications from the home and talk to their kids about the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs”. (A spokeswoman for the American Medical Association says it doesn’t comment on third party surveys.)

The government’s office of National Drug Control Policy is working with Congress to amend the Controlled Substances Act and make training on proper prescribing practices mandatory for doctors, according to NDCP spokesman Rafael Lemaitre. “The medical community does have a role to play in this. Somebody writes a prescription for these drugs,” Lemaitre says. “The vast majority do so responsibly and legally. But there are always some that don’t.”

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    • I have major neck issues c3 & c4, but noticed while the docs are still handing out pain meds, they are NOT writing scripts for Oxy anymore. Too much bad press.

    • I have no doubt some/many doctors write prescriptions for drugs that are not “needed”, but more for convenience, or because the patient asks for them. The ads seem to make it clear that if you have any deviation from “normal”, you should take a pill to fix it. Much like the illegal drug market, you have customers more than happy to get these drugs, and sellers more than happy to provide them. Insurance and the government both end up paying way too much for drugs which end up being optional at best, and recreational at worst.

About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.

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