Doctor shopping in Alabama?

Board of Medical Examiners meeting
Board of Medical Examiners meeting

Posted by Eileen Jones - bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A medical problem in the U.S. was exposed with Michael Jackson's death and the fact that he was believed to have been taking large amounts of prescription drugs.

People who go from doctor to doctor to get drugs like that are said to be "doctor shopping." But here in Alabama, you'd be hard pressed to find many people doing it.

In Alabama, the legislature passed a law in 2007 requiring pharmacists to record all prescriptions for narcotics.

When asked about controlled substances pharmacist Lynn Murray says the first thing that happens is that it all goes into a computer.

That means pharmacists, doctors, veterinarians and dentists can all check now to see if a patient has been doctor shopping.

"You can check and see how many controlled substances that individual is getting from how many other doctors, and who those other doctors are," explained Larry Dixon, Director of the Board of Medical Examiners. It's the Board of Medical Examiners' job to take action against any doctors who are found guilty of over-prescribing.

"We've taken licenses from physicians, not just controlled substance certificates," Dixon says. "We've taken the medical license because we've caught them. They become script writers...they don't practice medicine anymore. They sell prescriptions."

And, for physicians who are still practicing medicine, most never learned how to say 'no'  in medical school, and sometimes the board sends they away to prescription writing school.

"These people who are naive, who are busy, who have patients that come in to see them all the time. They see them in church and they say 'I hurt. I've got to come and see you.' These programs teach them how to deal with these patients and how to be able to say no even to somebody you sing in the choir with. It's a really large problem for physicians especially in smaller towns."

The Board of Medical Examiners doesn't have an exact number of doctors who've been disciplined for doctor shopping. They only list the number of doctors disciplined and not those for over prescribing.

The Department of Public Health is also active in monitoring the problem. It also reports suspicious activities to the medical examiners.

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