Researchers recommend painkillers from single providers

A new research carried by Harvard Medical School researchers has found that about more than a third of patients have multiple doctors who prescribe them painkillers under Medicare’s Part D program.

Over 30 percent people had prescription from more than one doctor. Study found that 23.1 per cent of them had two providers, another 9.5 per cent had three providers and another 7.9 per cent had four or more providers to prescribe them painkillers.

Study author Anupam Jena, said, “The results were shocking as I thought it would be 5 to 10 percent. But when we ran the numbers, it turned out to be 30 percent.”


Jena is an assistant professor of Health Care Policy and Medicine at Harvard Medical School and a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Experts say getting painkillers from more than one doctor have several health related complications. It increases the risk of respiratory depression, drowsiness and other complications, including injuries caused by falling.

The study shows, those who received their prescriptions from four or more providers were twice as likely to be hospitalised compared to the ones who obtained their prescription from a single provider. Conclusively, getting medication from single provider was advised by the researchers.

The statistics show prescriptions for opioid painkillers in the United States have nearly tripled to over 200 million per year in the past two decades. Opioids like hydrocodone with acetaminophen (Vicodin), oxycodone with acetaminophen, tramadol, oxycodone, morphine sulfate, and fentanyl were commonly prescribed by the doctors. Long term use of prescription opioids among adults 65 or older increased from 5 per cent of patients in 1997 to 9 per cent in 2005.

Jena says, when we recommend the patients not to drive when they take opioids, we also need to tell them about its adverse effects when medications taken from more than one provider.