Doctors will now face increased scrutiny, as part of the Attorney General’s multi-pronged effort to stop opioid overdoses. From the Boston Herald:
The stepped-up effort, [Healey] said, is “so we can shut down pill mills or go after doctors who are wrongfully putting prescriptions in people’s hands without regard to their health or well-being or the safety of the community.”
There is no doubt that opioid abuse is a serious public health crisis in the Commonwealth. What is less obvious to me, is that we can dry up the excess supply of prescription opioids by rooting-out bad doctors.
The Department of Public Health’s Prescription Monitoring Program already investigates the potential over-prescription of opioid painkillers by healthcare professionals. Healey believes that there are rogue doctors or “pill mills” that have been missed by this system. She hopes to find them, in part, by a high profile investigation of Medicaid databases.
What worries me is the potential for Healey’s investigation to dissuade some doctors from providing Medicaid patients suffering from pain with the best medical treatment possible. The medical community has only recently begun to give adequate treatment for pain. Cultural assumptions about pain, suffering and addiction, continue to work against an evidence-based approach to treating this silent epidemic. By focusing her investigatory efforts on a traditionally under-served population, there is great risk of unintentionally exacerbating one public health problem while we try to treat another.