Skip to Content

Studies Show Doctors Prescribe Opioids Without Valid Reason


If your doctor were to prescribe a medication for you that kills nearly 50,000 people per year, you’d probably think they were out of their mind. To make matters worse, you’d probably want to have them investigated for malpractice if your doctor prescribed this medication without any evidence or medical reason to support that it’s even necessary. Yet, that’s exactly what happens with opioid medications all across the country, contributing to a massive crisis that seems to have no end in sight.

Opioids were prescribed after more than 800 million outpatient doctor visits across the country between the years of 2006 and 2015, despite the fact that the dangers about them are extremely well-known. In fact, the synthetic painkiller medications killed approximately 49,000 people in the U.S. during the year 2017, or roughly 46 people per day! That number exceeded both car accidents and gun violence deaths last year.

Yet, despite these risks, a team from the RAND Corporation and Harvard Medical School found that over 28 percent of opioid prescriptions failed to provide a valid medical reason for why the patient needed the drugs and why the doctor was issuing permission to purchase them. When you consider the scope of the opioid crisis in the country, this has a lot of people casting a critical eye on doctors who act as the overseers and gatekeepers towards access to these drugs.

An estimated 11 percent of American adults experience daily pain, and opioids are a popular painkiller for their ability to provide relief that’s both quick and pleasant. These cases make up nearly 70 percent of all opioid prescriptions in the country (a little less than six percent are prescribed for cancer patients), but it’s clear that there’s a startling gap in the midst of a massive addiction crisis.

CDC Prevention Strategies

To counter the surge in opioid abuse, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention published updated guidelines for doctors in 2016. These new guidelines directed doctors to prescribe smaller, lower doses of the drugs over shorter timeframes. While these methods combined with other factors like heavy national attention on the opioid crisis and several lawsuits against opioid manufacturers to lower the prescription numbers, the results of this survey seem to suggest these are not enough.

The authors of the study from Harvard Medical School and the Rand Corporation suggest improving the documentation required for opioid prescriptions, requiring that doctors are more transparent with their justification for prescribing a drug with such a high addiction possibility over a non-addictive alternative.

Dangerous Drugs & Medical Malpractice

Your doctor is required to provide you the best standard of care possible, including looking out for your health and prescribing cure and treatment methods that have been well established. However, when conventional methods don’t work, they are often permitted to try more aggressive strategies to fix the problems you’re having. In many cases, this is why opioids are prescribed to patients who experience chronic, acute amounts of pain.

However, because these drugs can be so dangerous, your doctor is also required to act as a gatekeeper who monitors how you react to these drugs and prevent you from suffering from addiction. Doctors who get their patients addicted to these drugs may be liable for prescribing them, particularly when the drugs themselves do so much damage to a patient physically and psychologically.

If you or a loved one are suffering as a result of a opioid prescription from a doctor who failed to adhere to their duty of care, call the Austin opioid attorneys at the Law Offices of Vic Feazell, P.C. today at (254) 938-6885!