Wide variation in willingness of ER doctors to prescribe painkillers

From Reuters:

A national comparison of emergency room physicians has uncovered a broad range of prescribing patterns for painkillers, and high-volume prescribers may be encouraging long-term use of the drugs among their elderly patients.

Based on medical histories of more than 377,000 Medicare recipients, researchers found that doctors considered frequent prescribers were 300 percent more likely to give out prescriptions for painkillers than low-volume physicians in the same hospital, and those heavy-prescribers were 30 percent more likely to give their patients prescriptions for longer periods.

Yet their patients were only 3 percent more likely to show up at the hospital to be treated for a long-term drug problem, compared with the patients of doctors who were more restrained in their prescribing habits.

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