Prescription drug use needs strict monitoring
Published: Sunday, July 15, 2012
Updated: Sunday, July 15, 2012 14:07
Last week, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it would not install a requirement for doctors to complete mandatory prescription drug training to be able to prescribe more serious painkillers such as OxyContin, despite advice from an expert panel that suggested the need for one. The decision comes after years of debate on the subject, and although training will be made available, it will not be mandatory for doctors.
Twenty different drug manufacturers that make the prescriptions will fund the training program for doctors, and while the American Academy of Pain Medicine calls this a “huge leap forward,” it doesn’t seem like enough. Even in cases where abuse or overdose is not the intended effect, patients are oftentimes uninformed about their prescription. In some cases, patients will chew extended release pills that are meant to be swallowed, causing overdose of the drug.
Doctors are placed on a moral pedestal in society, one that ideally absolves them of guilt and wrongdoing. It is our inclination to trust doctors in times of medical vulnerability, because we have no choice but to do so. Many medical schools administer some form of the Hippocratic oath, but the pledge to “first, do no harm” is no longer stated in the modern version, according to PBS. These measures, especially if already funded, need to be put in place to ensure that doctors are making informed, educated opinions regarding the drugs they prescribe their patients.
“The problem of prescription drug abuse has become so severe, I believe that the time has come to make that training mandatory,” said Dr. Scott Fishman, professor at the University of California, Davis. This is especially true in Florida. The state is known as the epicenter of this epidemic, with Florida doctors prescribing 10 times the amount of oxycodone pills than every other state in the country combined, according to National Public Radio. Efforts to curb the abuse have been squashed by Gov. Rick Scott, who has stated that any sort of drug monitoring program is “an invasion of privacy” as well as a waste of money.
The issue will not go away if left untreated, and the training should be mandatory. Government statistics from 2009 show that opioids were responsible for nearly 342,000 emergency room visits and 16,000 deaths that year. Simple steps like mandating training programs would pave the way for progress on the issue. The FDA claims that making the program a requirement for doctors would require legislation passed by Congress, and they are eager to begin the program as soon as possible. But the choice is left to physicians who are expected to make responsible and just decisions for the well-being of the patient, but unfortunately, this is not always the case.