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Greed, Incompetence, Trickery Fuel Overprescribing Crisis

Why do physicians typically overprescribe drugs to their patients? Greed, incompetence and trickery stand out, says California Deputy Attorney General Thomas Lazar. Moreover, a local medical examiner says physicians are so rushed -- they spend no more than 11 minutes on average with each patient -- they write prescriptions as a convenient, time-saving form of treatment.

These problems probably have much to do with why patients filed more than 11,000 complaints with the California Medical Board, an all-time high, last year, some of which are described in this three-part series by the San Diego Union-Tribune on the overprescription crisis.

In one case, a doctor prescribed a month's supply of methadone (240 tablets) for a patient who then returned 17 days later for another month's supply. The patient kept coming back for more drugs without the doctor acknowledging the addiction, authorities said.

In another instance, a doctor's wife died after taking an accidential overdose of medication. And, although she had overdosed at least once before, reports said the woman was using so much morphine that she was hallucinating before her death, a report said.

This series also shows that physicians aren't the only ones to blame either. One patient described how he shopped about 100 different doctors over the years to prescribe the drugs he needed to alleviate his back pain.

Stories like these demonstrate beyond a doubt why I remain firm in my resolve to shatter the current health care paradigm and replace it with a more rational model focused on treating and preventing the underlying causes of disease.

San Diego Union-Tribune September 27, 2004

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