Prescription Drug Addiction Is Being Driven By The Profit Motives Of Big Pharma, Insurance Co's and Physicians

Prescription Drug Addiction Is Being Driven By The Profit Motives Of Big Pharma, Insurance Co's and Physicians

A panel of addiction experts say Nevada’s skyrocketing abuse of prescription narcotics — the highest in the nation — is caused by doctors who don’t take the time to examine a patient’s history and source of pain, leading to inadequate treatment and the risk of prescription drug addiction.

In a recent Las Vegas Sun article about Nevada’s skyrocketing prescription drug addiction problem, the experts agreed that too many doctors immediately prescribe narcotics to increase their patient volume and income. But they also agreed that doctors are being squeezed by low insurance reimbursements for the extra time and tests that many doctors would prefer to order to properly treat pain.

Las Vegas pain specialist Dr. Michael McKenna told the Sun that “… it’s a lot easier to write a prescription for 120 pills of Lortab once a month than it is to order an MRI, send a patient to a specialist and get him an interventional procedure that would eliminate certain diagnoses. The easiest way to address it is just to give pain pills. And there’s an economic incentive to do that. We live in a society where publicly traded insurance companies fund medicine. The insurance companies want to be profitable.”

Matt Alberto, deputy chief of investigations for the Nevada Public Safety Department, which polices prescription drug abuse, told the Sun that many patients just pay cash, and doctors routinely earn $100 for 15 minutes writing as many as three prescriptions with no examination, for as many as 100 patients a day. Such doctors end up creating prescription drug addiction, which leads to drug related crime.

A very valid point by Las Vegas pharmacist Leo Basch, concerns the massive direct-to-consumer advertising by Big Pharma that began in the 1990s which has led to “a change of culture … where people are more accepting of prescription drugs. [Such advertising] tells the American public that it’s OK to take pills, it’s OK to take medicine and it’s OK to specify to your doctor what medicines you want. So that defines the culture that we find ourselves in today.”

And that culture is creating more prescription drug addiction per capita than addiction to all the illicit street drugs combined, according to figures from the Drug Enforcement Administration.

This system, the Sun article suggests, is what is fueling prescription drug addiction in the state, rather than curing patients of their chronic pain. It has made Nevada number one in the nation for abuse of the opioid hydrocodone, creating record numbers of prescription drug addiction and drug overdose deaths.

The Nevada experience is typical of everywhere else in the country. Prescription drug addiction is a national epidemic. To change these conditions will require fundamental changes in medical practice, the insurance that funds it, and the laws that regulate it. Until then, the thousands suffering from prescription drug addiction will continue to turn to medical drug detox as the first step in their recovery.

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