Top opioid prescribers not pain specialists

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PBM Express Scripts added a notable data point to the national conversation about opioid drug prescriptions and abuse: 40% of the narcotic prescriptions issued between 2011 and 2012 were written by just 5% of opioid prescribers.

Express Scripts found that high prescribers wrote 3.5 more opioid prescriptions per patient than their peers and that the per-patient opioid prescription cost among these doctors was about five times higher than that of patients of the lower-prescribing professionals.

Express Scripts also noted that the high prescribers tended to be internal and family practice doctors, as opposed to pain specialists.

Opioid abuse continues to be a hot topic among federal and state lawmakers, whose strategies for tamping down on abuse trends have included petitions urging the FDA to rescind approval of Zogenix painkiller Zohydro, as well as lawsuits, such as those that Chicago and two California counties have lodged against drug manufacturers in which they accuse the drugmakers of downplaying addiction potential and deploying deceptive marketing strategies.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's most recent data indicates that opioids were associated with 75% of prescription drug overdoses in 2010. The government agency also reported in March that the majority of patients who would qualify as being at high risk for abuse generally get their prescription opioids from doctors, as opposed to using a less direct route such as a friend or family member.

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