Stanford researchers say epidemic of opioid painkillers overprescription not caused solely by ‘pill mills’

by Eric Pearson

A new study has found that the majority of U.S. general practitioners are responsible for the epidemic of opioid painkiller overprescription in this country. The Stanford University School of Medicine study contradicts the findings of earlier research that blamed a few bad apple physicians who ran “pill mills” as the source of the high rates of opioid painkiller use in the U.S.

The Stanford study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, examined Medicare prescription drug claims data for 2013. Researchers found that the top 10 percent of painkiller prescribers accounted for 57 percent of opioid prescriptions. This pattern was comparable to the general pattern­ for prescribers of all drugs among Medicare patients. In that instance, the top 10 percent of prescribers accounted for 63 percent of drug prescriptions.

The medical specialists who wrote the highest number of opioid painkiller prescriptions in 2013 included family practitioners (15.3 million prescriptions), internists (12.8 million), nurse practitioners (4.1 million), and physician’s assistants (3.1 million prescriptions).

In recent years, law enforcement officials have attempted to crack down on the epidemic of opioid painkiller abuse and addiction by shutting down so-called “pill mills”, in which a few doctors prescribed massive amounts of painkillers, often with the knowledge that these medications could be sold illegally. However, the authors of the Stanford study cautioned that targeting pill mills was not an effective strategy to curb opioid abuse because of the frequency with which these drugs were being prescribed by ordinary doctors.

The Stanford painkillers study contradicted the findings of a 2011 study by the California Workers’ Compensation Institute, which found that the top 1 percent of opioid prescribers accounted for one-third of the total number of prescriptions. The California study also found that the top 10 percent of opioid prescribers accounted for 80 percent of the total number of these prescriptions.

But unlike that study—which relied on data from California workers comp claimants, a group more likely to be prescribed opioids than the general population—the Stanford study relied on data concerning Medicare patients. The authors of the Stanford study argued that this data was more accurate in reflecting opioid prescription trends among doctors across the U.S.

Opioid Painkiller Lawsuits Filed By Heygood, Orr & Pearson

The overprescription of opioid painkillers in the U.S. has had a disastrous effect on the lives of patients who developed addictions or suffered overdoses caused by these medications. Doctors who indiscriminately prescribe these opioid medications to patients have also contributed to the growing epidemic of prescription painkiller overdoses in the U.S.

Patients who have suffered an overdose or who have become addicted to prescription painkillers may be eligible to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the medication they were given, as well as the doctor or hospital who prescribed the drug. The first step in filing a lawsuit is to secure the help of an experienced attorney who can help guide you through the process of filing a claim.

The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have represented numerous individuals who have suffered overdose, addiction, or other complications from opioid painkiller prescriptions. Our law firm has handled more cases involving the fentanyl pain patch—a powerful painkiller about 80-100 times more powerful than morphine—than all other law firms in the country combined. Our firm has both the training and experience to prosecute medical malpractice cases involving a wide array of other serious opioid painkillers, including Vicodin and hydrocodone, OxyContin and oxycodone, methadone, hydromorphone, and other medications.

If you or a loved one has suffered as a result of problems caused by opioid painkillers, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson to learn more about filing a lawsuit. For a free legal consultation, please call toll-free at 1-877-446-9001 to speak with an attorney. You can also contact us following the link to our free case evaluation form and answering a few simple questions about your history to get started.

by Eric Pearson

Eric Pearson is a licensed attorney and a partner at HO&P who handles commercial and personal injury lawsuits. Eric has been selected to the Super Lawyers List, a Thomson Reuters publication.