Are new attitudes about opioids prompting disciplinary actions?

The recent death of pop musician Prince has brought national media attention to the issue of addictive pain medication, such as opioids. That attention may also impact doctors and the state medical boards to which they answer.

According to a recent tally, state medical boards have disciplined over 600 doctors in Pennsylvania and 5 other regional states for allegedly over prescribing certain narcotics. One Pennsylvania prosecutor has gone so far as to characterize doctors who allegedly over prescribe opioid pills as drug dealers with white coats.

It is true that medical best practices may recommend a prescription to be tailored to the unique circumstances of a patient and his or her symptoms. However, there are additional factors that a treating doctor may have no control over. For example, a doctor may not know that a patient is selling his or her prescription to dealers on the street. Nor is a urine test a safeguard, as it may not reveal whether a patient has been taking his or her prescription.

In addition, medical opinions about pain management continue to change. Doctors may prescribe within a drug manufacturer’s guidelines, only to be second-guessed if a patient falls into trouble, perhaps overdosing. However, a patient tragedy may not always signal medical malpractice, nor should it be an automatic invitation to a disciplinary hearing that may result in a medial license being revoked.

When attitudes change due to politics or the media, an attorney can help provide ballast. Our law firm focuses on professional license defense. We have the experience to advocate on behalf of medical professionals who are being challenged.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “How doctors wrote the script for an epidemic,” Rich Lord, J. Brady McCollough and Adam Smeltz, May 21, 2016

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