Physician Warning – Opioids – 'Know Thy Patient' – Reuters Health – News Page

This post was authored by Brian Nash and posted to The Eye Opener on January 19th, 2010.

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For those lawyers, such as those in our firm, it is well known that there is a true risk to a patient/client on prescribed pain killers/opioids that such people may well become addicted and ‘at risk’ for greater harm – namely a lifetime of addiction or even worse – death.

There is an important posting in today’s Reuters Health – News Page,which speaks to this issue quite well.

A well-placed quote from a physician with the Centers for Disease Control summarizes the problem:

As a society, we have underestimated the possible risks from the dramatic increase in use of opioids,” said Dr. Leonard Paulozzi of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who was not involved in the new study.

The study, conducted by a team headed by Michael Von Korff, ScD, a  senior investigator at Group Health Research Institute, was  published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and is summarized well in a posting found at ScientificBlogging.com.

From our standpoint as lawyers, in terms of good medical practice and standards of quality care, the key elements of interest were outlined by the author:

The team said that this research and the data reviewed cannot determine whether higher doses are a cause of overdose, but he noted that physicians should carefully evaluate and closely monitor patients using opioids long-term. (emphasis added)

Previous research had not tracked nonfatal overdoses. “Fatal overdose may be only the tip of the iceberg,” said Dr. Von Korff. “For every fatal overdose in our study, 7 nonfatal overdoses occurred, and most of the nonfatal overdoses were medically serious.”

The keys – ‘evaluate’ and ‘monitor.’  How many times over my 35 year career have I heard stories of patients ‘doctor shopping’ and dealing with the receptionist or office nurse in the seemingly never-ending quest to just get more drugs.  Their motives are rarely for financial gain – they are simply out of control and in need of good, quality of care oversight and monitoring.


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