One in three American seniors who benefit from the U.S. Medicare program, receives painkiller prescription from several healthcare service providers, according to a study released by the British Medical Journal. This practice places seniors at risk for drug overdose, injury, and even death.
Researchers analyzed the medical records of more than one million Medicare patients who have received opioid prescriptions in 2010. The researchers have found that over 30% of those Medicare beneficiaries with an opioid prescription have received prescription from two doctors; more than 14% from three doctors; and more than 11% percent from four or more doctors.
The growing use of prescription opioids has emerged as a pressing public health problem in the US. Among elderly people, prescription opioids are associated with greater frequencies of fractures and safety events requiring hospital admission. The researchers found that patients who receive their prescription from more than one doctor are more at risk of opioid-related hospitalization than patients who get their prescription from a single provider. They also noted that the risks increased with the number of prescribers. The researchers emphasized that it is vital for healthcare service providers to educate their patients.