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ER Docs Object to Prescription Drug Monitoring Requirements

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Pain doctors have long clashed with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) over opiate-based pain medications, and now Angela Gardner, the head of the American College of Emergency Physicians, is warning against making doctors “pain police.”

Gardner objected to proposals that would require physicans — including ER docs — to search a database for patients’ drug-use history before prescribing drugs. Requiring that prescription information be recorded to the database also could discourage some patients from getting proper care, Gardner said.

“As an emergency physician, I can assure you that the drug abusers who use the emergency room simply to get a prescription-drug fix represent a micropopulation of the 120-million patients who seek emergency care every year in the USA,” wrote Gardner in USA Today on June 21. “With emergency departments continuing to close because of uncompensated care, legislation and funding would be better used to shore up the nation’s safety net. Put bluntly, if legislators have money to spend, they should spend it where it will do the most good for our patients, and that is not on drug databases.”

However, USA Today accused some doctors of abetting drug abuse, saying, “Doctors argue that checking takes precious time away from patients or turns them into “pain police” … Maybe so. Nonetheless, there’s more value to checking. At the very least, doctors won’t end up contributing to the problem.”

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