While many people may be familiar with the idea that combining some medications can be dangerous for patients, few may be fully aware of how prescription drugs interact with one another. That is why it is the job of trained physicians, pharmacists and medical professionals to monitor the number and types of medications prescribed to patients to ensure that they do not pose unnecessary risks or complications. Recent findings suggest, however, that Medicare patients in New York and beyond may be subject to potentially harmful medical errors involving multiple physicians prescribing medications.
It is estimated that long-term use of opioid painkillers by elderly adults increased by approximately 4 percent in less than 10 years. And in 20 years alone, the number of opioid prescriptions being written in the U. S. increased to approximately 200 million annually. While prescription opioid use is on the rise, serious medical complications and injuries can occur when such drugs are prescribed by multiple physicians.
Researchers with the Harvard Medical School studied 20 percent of Medicare patients participating in the Part D prescription coverage plan in 2010, and determined that more than 30 percent of patients studied were issued prescription medications from more than one source. Almost 8 percent were being prescribed painkillers by at least four different doctors, and more than 23 percent of study subjects had two doctors prescribing medications.
Given that prescriptions written by multiple sources can lead to unwanted drug interactions and pharmacy errors, the practice is linked to increased hospitalizations and other risks. The author of the Harvard study was surprised by the high rate of patients being prescribed medications by multiple sources, as she anticipated that the figures would be much lower.
Source: utahpeoplespost.com, “Over 30 percent Medicare beneficiaries consult multiple doctors for painkillers,” Amanda Pierce, Feb. 22, 2014