Many seniors get prescription painkillers from multiple doctors - 8 News NOW

Many U.S. seniors get prescription painkillers from multiple doctors

Updated: Feb 19, 2014 02:49 PM
© iStockphoto / Thinkstock © iStockphoto / Thinkstock

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 19, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- About one-third of Medicare patients who get prescriptions for powerful narcotic painkillers receive them from multiple doctors, which raises their risk for hospitalization, according to a new study.

Narcotics (also called opioids) include painkillers such as hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (Oxycontin) and morphine. Prescriptions for these drugs have risen sharply in the United States in the past 20 years -- as have overdoses.

"As physicians, we tell patients not to drive when they take opioids, but we also need to tell them that it can be dangerous to receive these medications from more than one provider," said study author Dr. Anupam Jena, an assistant professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School.

Jena and his colleagues also found that having multiple doctors prescribe prescription painkillers increased patients' risk of being hospitalized for drug-related complications such as breathing problems, drowsiness and injuries from falls.

For the study, which was published Feb. 19 in the journal BMJ, the researchers analyzed data from 1.8 million people enrolled in Medicare's prescription benefit (Part D) who filled at least one narcotic prescription in 2010. Medicare is the taxpayer-supported insurance program for the elderly.

The researchers said they were surprised to find that 30 percent of the patients were prescribed narcotic painkillers by more than one doctor.

"I thought it would be 5 percent to 10 percent," Jena said in a Harvard news release.

The greater the number of prescribers, the higher the risk of hospitalization, said study co-author Pinar Karaca-Mandic, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

"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," Karaca-Mandic said in the news release.

Doctors need to inform patients about the risks associated with receiving painkillers from more than one health care provider, Jena said.

Many health systems and state governments are creating tools to make it easier for doctors to determine if patients are already getting prescription painkillers from another doctor.

Prescriptions for narcotics in the United States increased nearly three-fold from 1991 to 2009, to more than 200 million a year, according to the National Institutes of Health. Narcotic overuse and abuse is a major health issue in the country.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about opioids.

Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

  • Paula's Health NotesLas Vegas Health NewsMore>>

  • Prostate frozen lumpectomy offers patients an alternative

    Prostate frozen lumpectomy offers patients an alternative

    Tuesday, July 29 2014 3:39 PM EDT2014-07-29 19:39:02 GMT
    More than 230,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year according to the American cancer society. In most cases, surgical removal of the gland is considered the gold standard of treatment, but results of a new study suggest a new treatment might benefit some patients.More>>
    More than 230,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year according to the American cancer society. In most cases, surgical removal of the gland is considered the gold standard of treatment, but results of a new study suggest a new treatment might benefit some patients.More>>
  • New therapies for epilepsy

    New therapies for epilepsy

    Friday, July 25 2014 3:00 PM EDT2014-07-25 19:00:14 GMT
    pilepsy is a chronic neurological condition that affects more than 2.5 million Americans. Uncontrollable seizures plague these patients’ lives. Until now, the only treatments were drugs and major surgery, but new therapies are on the horizon.More>>
    pilepsy is a chronic neurological condition that affects more than 2.5 million Americans. Uncontrollable seizures plague these patients’ lives. Until now, the only treatments were drugs and major surgery, but new therapies are on the horizon.More>>
  • Study touts health care workers with less than bachelor's degree

    Study touts health care workers with less than bachelor's degree

    Thursday, July 24 2014 12:08 AM EDT2014-07-24 04:08:05 GMT
    Among Las Vegas workers with less than a bachelor’s degree only 3.5 percent hold jobs in the most common health care occupations, the lowest percentage among the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas, the Brookings Institution reported Wednesday night.More>>
    Among Las Vegas workers with less than a bachelor’s degree only 3.5 percent hold jobs in the most common health care occupations, the lowest percentage among the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas, the Brookings Institution reported Wednesday night.More>>
*DISCLAIMER*: The information contained in or provided through this site section is intended for general consumer understanding and education only and is not intended to be and is not a substitute for professional advice. Use of this site section and any information contained on or provided through this site section is at your own risk and any information contained on or provided through this site section is provided on an "as is" basis without any representations or warranties.
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and KLAS. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.