Prescription drugs
Some within the medical profession are wondering whether doctors are over-prescribing drugs to patients. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

A recently released report suggests American physicians are too quick to prescribe drugs. The report is appearing in the Archives of Internal Medicine, and a doctor from one of the most elite hospitals in the nation is suggesting doctors think before reaching for the prescription pad.

Physician calls for conservative prescribing

A broadside has been published in the medical journal Archives of Internal Medicine calling for physicians to be more conservative with the prescription pad, according to Reuters. The number of medications being taken by the average American is increasing. The authors assert that because many drugs don’t have a long enough history to determine their effectiveness, it leads to more complications and side effects in patients, and it would be better to only prescribe well-proven drugs when necessary. Doctors often see many patients and simply filling out a prescription is expedient, and patients who are inundated with drug advertising on television and in magazines are quick to ask for the newest medications.

Incentives to prescribe

The medical profession is said to be plagued by pharmaceutical companies offering kickbacks to doctors for prescribing brand-name medications. For instance, pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, according to WalletPop, settled two lawsuits this month with the Department of Justice for more than $25 million. The first suit was for improper marketing of NovoSeven, a hemostasis drug used to treat blood disorders, for off-label purposes. The second suit was for offering pharmacists at RiteAid kickbacks for recommending Novo drugs for diabetes. Both lawsuits were brought because the prescriptions were written for Medicare and Medicaid patients. EMD Serono, also according to WalletPop, had to settle a multimillion dollar suit this month when pharmaceutical reps were found to have offered kickbacks to doctors for prescribing Serono’s multiple sclerosis drug, Rebif, to Medicare and Medicaid patients. AstraZeneca, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, has paid the U.S. government $15 billion in the past five years alone, according to Reuters, for illegal practices. Because AstraZeneca has more than $10 billion in profits per year, and apparently the company would rather pay the fines than obey the law.

Poisonous cures

The most dangerous class of drugs is prescription painkillers such as hydrocodone and oxycodone. Physicians are prescribing them more often every year. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health, physician prescriptions increased by six times between 1991 and 2010, and the number of overdoses from their use has tripled since 1999. The number of people who sought emergency medical services because of non-medical use of prescription drugs increased 98.4 percent between 2004 and 2009, and almost 50 percent of visits to emergency rooms for drug-related reasons were due to adverse drug reactions to drugs taken as prescribed. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more people died from prescription opioid analgesic overdose than from overdose of cocaine and heroin combined.

Sources

Reuters on over prescribing: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/06/13/us-hold-those-drugs-doctor-idUSTRE75C5K720110613

WalletPop on Novo Nordisk: http://www.walletpop.com/2011/06/13/drug-company-pays-26-7-million-to-settle-two-lawsuits/

WalletPop on EMD Serono: http://www.walletpop.com/2011/06/07/major-drug-company-pays-44-million-to-settle-kickback-claims/

Reuters on AstraZeneca: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/05/27/astrazeneca-junkets-idUSLDE74P1YI20110527

National Institute on Drug Abuse: http://www.nida.nih.gov/infofacts/hospitalvisits.html

Centers for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Poisoning/brief_full_page_text.htm

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