Physicians Who Prescribe Too Many Painkillers Head Back to School to Save Licenses

Early intervention for physicians and dentists who misprescribe controlled drugs

Investigators at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center created the Center for Professional Health (CPH), which provides a program for health professionals who overprescribe painkillers or other controlled drugs.

The three-day course, "Prescribing Controlled Drugs: Critical Issues and Common Pitfalls," allows participants the opportunity to:

  • Vent anger at being accused of wrongdoing.
  • Examine the reasons that might underlie their prescribing problems.
  • Learn strategies designed to prevent problems in the future.

Key Results

  • Project staff held four pilot sessions of the course, serving 33 physicians.
  • After refining the course, they held 16 additional sessions with a total of 113 physicians from 14 states.

Key Findings

  • The vast majority of participants had prescribed large quantities of narcotics for back pain, migraine headaches, arthritis, and other "non-malignant" conditions.
  • These physicians often had a history of being duped by drug-seeking patients, prescribing for office staff or family members, or not documenting their treatment decisions in patient records.
  • The majority were in solo practice in small towns or rural areas, and some had a drug use problem themselves.

Funding

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) supported the project with a grant of $349,970 from 1997 to 2000.