Not too long ago, many of the states in the South had severe problems with the over prescribing of powerful narcotic medications. At the turn of the new millennia, pain management clinics known as “pill mills” popped up like weeds in Florida; people would actually travel from surrounding states to take advantage of the rampant over prescribing of opioid painkillers. As lawmakers came to terms with the fact that we were in the midst of an epidemic, efforts began to curb the problem by closing down pill mills and using prescription drug databases to track over prescribing and doctor shopping.
While such efforts did a lot of good, it appears that some physicians did not get the memo and continued prescribing narcotics at heinous rates. Last month, a psychiatrist in Georgia was arrested and has been accused of running a pill mill, WSB-TV reports. Both local law enforcement and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents raided the office and home of Dr. Narendra Nagareddy and seized his assets as well.
“He’s a psychiatrist in Jonesboro who has been overprescribing opiates and benzodiazepine and the last several years has had a multitude of overdoses and overdose deaths,” said Clayton County Police Chief Mike Register.
Legal documents indicate that 36 of Nagareddy’s patients lost their lives while taking drugs prescribed by the psychiatrist, according to the article. A review of autopsy reports linked 12 of the deaths to prescription drug overdoses.
“He’s charged with prescribing pain medication which is outside his profession as a psychiatrist and not for a legitimate purpose for the patient,” said Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson.
While it is hard to believe that doctors are still getting away with profiting from patient addiction, it is a good sign that law enforcement is holding them accountable for their actions. Physicians should be working to end the prescription drug epidemic, not exacerbating the problem by continuing to overprescribe.
Curbing prescription drug abuse rates in the United States often requires innovative techniques. The implementation of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) has had a huge impact on reducing doctor shopping – the act of going to multiple doctors for prescription opioids. While these efforts have reduced doctor shopping and have helped officials identify pain management clinics complicit in over prescribing practices – “pill mills,” there is still much more that can be done to address this insidious problem plaguing America.
At a recent health IT conference, experts argued that a greater use of electronic prescribing systems among healthcare providers could prove helpful in reducing prescription drug abuse, CIO reports. Unfortunately, the adoption of electronic prescribing of controlled substances (EPCS) systems has been slow.
“E-prescribing stops diversion. Paper prescriptions are stolen, they’re forged, they’re upticked. Changing a 3 to an 8 was something we saw time and time again,” Justin Berhaupt, a former aide to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, told CIO.
It’s been five years since the Drug Enforcement Administration authorized the use of EPCS systems. It would seem that that was more than enough time for the program to show some promise. While every state except Missouri has established a framework for e-prescribing, only 2 percent of healthcare providers nationwide have adopted EPCS systems, according to the article. Meanwhile, 78 percent of pharmacies nationwide have implemented e-prescribing systems.
“You name it, everyone needs to be a part of this solution,” says Tricia Wilkins, who serves as a pharmacy advisor for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT. “The issue of opioid over-prescribing and misuse is not just a law-enforcement issue. It’s absolutely a healthcare crisis.”
With millions of prescription opioids being prescribed every year, abuse rates are out of control – but there is help. If you are struggling with prescription opioid addiction, please do not hesitate to reach out for assistance. At Synergy Group Services we offer prescription drug addiction counseling, designed to help each individual learn how to live a life free from prescription drugs.