Lack of Opioid Documentation -> DEA Raid

Doctors often gave no good reason for prescribing opioids, new study finds – by By Maggie Fox – Sept 2018

Doctors gave no good reason for prescribing opioids to patients close to a third of the time during the buildup to the opioid overdose epidemic, researchers reported Monday.

A close check of medical records from 2006 to 2015 showed that a physician gave no explanation at all for writing an opioid prescription in 29 percent of the cases, the team at Harvard Medical School and the Rand Corp. found.

That’s a huge problem for their hapless patients because it leaves these doctors vulnerable to be shut down by a DEA raid, cutting off all their patients without any means to continue their medical care.  

These doctors are endangering themselves and their patients when every opioid prescription is so carefully scrutinized by law enforcement.

The findings help support criticism by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and others that say inappropriate prescribing practices have helped drive the opioid crisis, in which 42,000 people died in 2016 alone.

Just what we need: doctors giving ammunition to the anti-opioid zealots.

The CDC has been trying to get doctors to prescribe opioids only when absolutely necessary, and to prescribe as low a dose as possible for the shortest time possible.

For so many of us, this is exactly what happens. For all the doctors I saw, (and me too) opioids were the last resort and used sparingly because it’s the last fall-back for human pain.

There’s nothing “stronger” or more effective, so if we become too tolerant to them, there will be little rescue if we ever suffer a painful injury.

From a biological/medical view, there is no “maximum dose” of opioids because they are continually “used up” by the body to dampen pain. This means they can be safely titrated up to whatever is needed to control the pain.

I doubt that any of the folks making the opioid rules know this when even many medical providers don’t. Opioids have been demonized to the point that everyone is afraid to prescribe freely as needed.

Nicole Maestas, a professor of health care policy at Harvard, and her colleagues went through tens of thousands of medical records, focusing on more than 31,000 physician surveys that included a prescription for an opioid.

Two-thirds did include a pain diagnosis: usually back pain, arthritis, diabetes or other chronic condition. Five percent were for pain related to cancer.

Many patients had multiple ailments, so the researchers threw out any surveys that may have simply lacked space to record all the diagnoses. Still, many patients got renewals of opioids for no apparent good reason.

“At visits with no pain diagnosis recorded, the most common diagnoses were hypertension, hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol), opioid dependence and ‘other follow-up examination,’ ” the researchers wrote.

At the very least, doctors need to write down why they are giving someone an opioid, the researchers said.

How can this not be obvious to every doctor? While they know enough about the crisis to be scared away from prescribing opioids, why aren’t they scared enough to document their decision?

Even as a patient, I’ve learned to document anything I want my doctors to take seriously.

Who knows what they hear and how they interpret it when they write into our medical records what they believe we are telling them?

So I always do the documentation myself, carefully going back through my pain diary to include dates and numbers, both for levels of pain and the milligrams of opioids needed to control it. (unlike all those scientific studies that measure only the milligrams and not the pain)

I’m not sure why, but presenting a pain complaint verbally is just not taken as seriously (or trusted as much) as a written report. Perhaps it’s because we usually don’t mention specific dates and numbers while talking about pain, but these data are exactly what they need to justify our opioid doses.

I think doctors don’t bother asking about specific numbers because they know we can’t remember such details accurately unless we wrote them down at that time.

To get the best medical care, we have to step up and help our doctors because they are bogged down in the huge mess of our current healthcare system and don’t have enough resources to do their jobs correctly.

The 15 minutes they are allocated (by financial restraints) for our appointments aren’t nearly enough to

  • do a thorough physical exam at each appointment
  • take a history of the main complaint
  • carefully listen to not just the words but to the meaning of what the patient is saying,
  • discuss with the patient the various alternatives
  • negotiate a treatment plan acceptable to both parties,
  • write prescriptions, and
  • then document the whole interaction.

Just looking at this list makes me wonder how in the heck they can do all that so quickly… and then seamlessly switch to the next patient and start all over again… for 32 appointments in an 8-hour working day.

Whatever the reasons, lack of robust documentation undermines our efforts to understand physician prescribing patterns and curtails our ability to stem overprescribing,” Dr. Tisamarie Sherry, who worked on the study, said in a statement.

5 thoughts on “Lack of Opioid Documentation -> DEA Raid

  1. David Cole

    Absolutely true however I wouldn’t take anything the CDC guidelines say with a pound of salt believing it to be true. 42,000 deaths were attributed to RX opioid prescriptions, thanks to whistleblowers at the CDC it was determined that their algorithm was off and they’ve been over counting RX opiate related deaths by 50% since 2006. their own researchers said it was probably higher than that. So now the CDC has revised that number from 42,000 to about 17,000. Other researchers and scientists have used the same algorithm and come up with 5,000 to 11,000. What I’m trying to say is you cannot trust the CDC for anything, let’s remember they were the ones that got caught red-handed destroying evidence that some immunizations we’re leading to autism. These people should have nothing to do with opioid prescribing guidelines, that is HHS and FDA responsibility. I’ve taken daily logs into my doctor’s office he won’t even look at them. Told me twice he’s afraid of losing his license, this is a pain management specialist thats been in business for 25 years.
    This is a great article and I will be rewriting some pain logs to leave with him to put in my file. Thank you Maggie, this is very informative and true.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. peter jasz

    LOL. The DEA can’t find the real criminals, so they attack pain patients/and a rogue physician ?

    Sure there’ll be an off-the-rails ‘Doc’ now and then; few/far between as they understand the serious implications involved -and of course the ‘strength’ of the script (opiates), and so manage such things very carefully. Their livelihoods depend on responsible professional standards.

    Beyond such a witch-hunt, don’t derail the far more serious issue of dangerously under treating severe pain patients.

    This ‘Power Play’ of who has the most power/influence leaves hundreds/ thousands/ tens-of-thousands of casualties in its wake.
    A disgraceful state of affairs that is and will continue to be looked back in utter disbelief -and , shame.


    Liked by 1 person

  3. peter jasz

    Ohhhhhh …. my…. a “Bad” Doctor (1/10,000-100,000?)

    Let’s make a “Big” story from a single -or a few- rogue physician/s and make sure everyone “sees” and reads about it. That’s the problem to the issues at hand !




  4. Janie Anderson

    this article and the responses to it make me crazy let’s continue to blame lazy doctor record keeping and pain patients for the addiction problem in this country, let’s continue the same old BS, while people like me suffer the hell of untreated severe pain on a daily basis, let’s take a small number to evaluate and then scream it from the high heavens, this is just more of the same old crap from the CDC the FDA and the DEA all of whom are in my opinion nothing more than terrorists and abusers of the American people, let’s also remember in today’s world one can cherry pick
    & publish “facts” to prove almost any position one wants



Other thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.