Recent studies indicate that painkillers are some of the most abused substances in the U.S. A growing number of people are dying due to overdose, and almost half are recipients of Medicaid. It has also been discovered that many painkiller addicts are utilizing a technique called “pharmacy shopping” to acquire more painkillers than their doctors are willing to prescribe them. But what is pharmacy shopping and how can it be prevented?
How Pharmacy Shopping Works
Pharmacy shopping involves visiting numerous pharmacies in order to acquire large amounts of medication. A single pharmacy or doctor is often unwilling to prescribe more than their patient needs, so those that are addicted will visit multiple locations in an attempt to circumvent this restriction. While the Medicaid programs in some states do monitor the visits which are made to pharmacies by patients, the system is not perfect.
For instance, it isn’t clear how many times the patient must visit different pharmacies in order to create a red flag, nor the time that must occur between visits. Additionally, there are many patients that may visit multiple pharmacies simply because they have to relocate or travel as a part of their employment. Separating those that are abusing the system from those that are using it legitimately is extremely challenging.
What Research Findings Indicate
What has been discovered is that patients who have painkiller prescriptions which overlap have a much higher likelihood of addiction, pharmacy shopping and overdose. Researchers made this discovery by reviewing the data of over 90,000 Medicaid recipients of various ages, who used painkillers such as Vicodin. A considerable number of these individuals had a minimum of three prescriptions within a 90 day period.
Patients who have overlapping prescriptions tend to pharmacy shop, and on average they will visit four pharmacies within a three month period. This is a better indication of who should be monitored and investigated. There is absolutely no reason why any patient should be visiting four pharmacies within just a few months, unless they are trying to get around the restrictions placed on painkillers. While there will always be exceptions, this should be a red flag.
Solutions To Pharmacy Shopping
There are a number of approaches that can be used to reduce or eliminate pharmacy shopping entirely. Some of these include better monitoring tools and techniques, as well as implementing programs which only allow patients to receive their medications from a single pharmacy. That way, any attempts made to visit alternative locations will result in the patient being denied.
While painkillers are perfectly legal and legitimate to use, the sheer number of people that are dying from them suggest that changes must be made and soon. Equally important, pharmacists and doctors must do their part to ensure that their patients are never given more painkillers than necessary, even when the patient demands them or tries to persuade the doctor or pharmacist to do otherwise. When taken in excessive amounts painkillers can be just as dangerous and addictive as any illegal drug which is sold on the street.