3 in 10 Pharmacists Do Not Regularly Validate Prescribers’ DEA Number | Center on Addiction

3 in 10 Pharmacists Do Not Regularly Validate Prescribers’ DEA Number

3 in 10 Pharmacists do Not Regularly Validate Prescribers’ DEA Number

3 in 5 Do Not Regularly Ask Patients if They Take Other Controlled Drugs
WASHINGTON, D.C., July 7, 2005

Nearly 30% of pharmacists do not regularly validate the prescribing physician’s information (DEA number) when dispensing controlled drugs like opioids, depressants and stimulants and three-fifths (61%) do not regularly ask if the patient is taking any other controlled drugs when dispensing a controlled medication. These and other disturbing findings are contained in a new 214-page report by CASAColumbia (CASA) at Columbia University entitled Under the Counter: The Diversion and Abuse of Controlled Prescription Drugs in the U.S. These findings come at a time when the number of Americans who abuse controlled prescription drugs has nearly doubled from 7.8 million to 15.1 million from 1992 to 2003.

“Our nation is in the throes of an epidemic of controlled prescription drug abuse and addiction,” said Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA’s Chairman and President and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. “Pharmacists must stop pointing the finger at patients and step up their vigilance and take more responsibility to curb abuse and diversion of potentially addictive controlled prescription drugs like opioids, depressants and stimulants.”

CASA surveyed 1,030 pharmacists between July 21 and October 31, 2004. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3%. Among its major findings:

  • 51.8% of pharmacists believe that patients account for the bulk of the diversion problem
  • When a patient presents a prescription for a controlled drug, 26.5% of pharmacists somewhat or very often think it is for purposes of diversion or abuse
  • 78.4% of pharmacists become somewhat or very concerned about diversion or abuse when a patient asks for a controlled drug by its brand name
  • 28.9% of pharmacists have experienced a theft or robbery of controlled drugs at their pharmacy within the last 5 years
  • 20.9% of pharmacists do not stock certain controlled drugs in order to prevent diversion
  • Only about half of pharmacists received any training in preventing prescription drug diversion (48.1%) or identifying abuse or addiction (49.6%) since pharmacy school

CASA also surveyed 979 physicians to better understand the mechanisms of diversion of prescription drugs and how medical professionals deal with this problem. Among that survey’s major findings:

  • 43.3% of physicians do not ask about prescription drug abuse when taking a patient’s health history
  • 33% do not regularly call or obtain records from the patient's previous (or other treating) physician before prescribing controlled drugs on a long-term basis
  • 47.1% say that patients commonly try to pressure them into prescribing a controlled drug
  • 59.1% of physicians believe that patients account for the bulk of the diversion problem
  • Physicians perceive the three main mechanisms of diversion to be patient doctor shopping (96.4%), patient deception or manipulation of doctors (87.8%) and forged or altered prescriptions (69.4%)
  • 74.1% of physicians have refrained from prescribing controlled drugs during the past 12 months because of concern that a patient might become addicted to them
  • Only 19.1% of physicians received any medical school training in identifying prescription drug diversion
  • Only 39.6% of physicians received any training in medical school in identifying prescription drug abuse and addiction

Results of the pharmacist and physician surveys were published in Under the Counter: The Diversion and Abuse of Controlled Prescription Drugs in the U.S., a 214-page CASA report detailing the findings of an intensive three-year study of prescription opioids (e.g., OxyContin, Vicodin), central nervous system (CNS) depressants (e.g., Valium, Xanax), CNS stimulants (e.g., Ritalin, Adderall) and steroids. Among the report’s overall key findings:

  • From 1992 to 2003, while the U.S. population increased 14%, the number of 12 to 17 year olds who abused controlled prescription drugs jumped 212% and the number of adults 18 and older abusing such drugs climbed 81%.
  • From 1992 to 2003, abuse of controlled prescription drugs grew at a rate twice that of marijuana abuse; five times that of cocaine abuse; 60 times that of heroin abuse
  • From 1992 to 2003, the number of people abusing controlled prescription drugs increased 7 times faster than the increase in the U.S. population
  • The 15.1 million Americans abusing controlled prescription drugs exceed the combined number abusing cocaine (5.9 million), hallucinogens (4.0 million), inhalants (2.1 million) and heroin (.3 million)

*CASAColumbia at Columbia University is neither affiliated with, nor sponsored by, the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association (also known as "CASA") or any of its member organizations with the name of "CASA."


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