It's a medication error problem of the first magnitude and a foremost concern of federal safety regulators and medical professionals across the country.
Namely, that is the inappropriate use of prescription pain killers, which occurs in many millions of instances each year in the United States.
One emergency center director says that one of his major concerns "is that people are dying more from narcotic prescription overdoses than they are from motor vehicle accidents."
When coupled with hard numbers, that assessment takes on a riveting clarity. Food and Drug Administration officials note, for instance, that misuse of pain relievers resulted in more than 15,000 death across the country in 2009. Well more than 420,000 persons checked into emergency rooms that same year after inappropriately ingesting narcotic drugs.
The root cause of such a mass malady is multiple and complex. In some instances, doctors simply prescribe the wrong drugs to patients, with medical malpractice or hospital negligence being a clear contributor to patient harm or death in certain cases. In other cases, a person simply becomes addicted to pain-killing medications and abuses them.
Either way, it's a problem, and many clinics and hospitals are focused on ways to reduce the misuse and resulting injuries that are occurring.
One concern that is commonly expressed is that emergency rooms are too often a patient's choice of venue for receiving narcotic medications. Some patients will also shop around for physicians who will more readily prescribe medications, or they will simply make multiple appointments until they get what they want.
One recommendation is a "pain contract," which a patient signs with a single care provider in his or her community. A one-doctor, one-pharmacy arrangement, say many advocates, provides for better communication and control over misuse problems.
Source: ConnectTriStates.com, "Doctors tighten cps on prescription pain killers," Brooke Hasch, Aug. 7, 2012