Medicare: Contributing To Painkiller Addiction

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Addictions to painkillers for Medicare patients is growing rapidly, but could Medicare be fueling this dangerous trend?

It has been discovered that nearly one in three patients who get prescriptions for painkillers, can get them from multiple doctors, and the physician prescribing them is unaware that they are already receiving prescriptions from another doctor. This is a trend that could create a serious addiction, which can lead to not only further drug abuse, but hospitalization, HealthDay News reported.

The British Medical Journal recently published a study that included research from medical professionals who analyzed data from 1.8 million people who are Medicare recipients, and who use narcotic pain killer prescriptions, also known as opioids. These drugs are extremely addicting, and include hydrocodone, oxycodone and morphine.

They found that nearly 35 percent of patients were prescribed opioids from more than one doctor.

Among 1.2 million beneficiaries with an opioid prescription, 418, 530 patients filled prescriptions from two providers, 171,420 patients, more than 14 percent, from three providers, and 143,344, more than 11 percent, from four or more providers. According to the study’s authors, the greater the number of prescribers, the greater the risk for addiction, abuse and hospitalization.

"Patients with four or more prescribers were twice as likely to be hospitalized for narcotics-related complications than patients receiving the same number of prescriptions from a single caregiver," study co-author Pinar Karaca-Mandic, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, said in a press release.

Prescriptions for opioids have increased dramatically in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health. Medical experts have blamed these types of painkillers, also called narcotics, for the recent spike in heroin use, as well as overdose deaths, because many patients often abuse painkillers before switching to heroin.

According to the Boston Globe, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working on a new initiative to discourage doctors from over-prescribing opioid painkillers, which are misused by more than 10 percent of Americans.

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