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Vermont State Practice Board Panel Hears Prescription Drug Abuse Allegations

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The director of the University of Vermont’s Health Center last week appeared before the state’s Medical Practice Board to contest allegations that the school health clinic improperly prescribed opioids to students. According to the Burlington Free Press, a 2009 survey of the university’s students, conducted by six nursing students, suggested somebody at the center was prescribing opioids to students who, in some instances, were giving the pills to friends, selling them or using them recreationally.

The newspaper reports Vermont’s Attorney General alleges the head of the health clinic failed to adequately supervise a physician assistant at the clinic, who prescribed opioids without documenting that a physical exam had taken place, or without an appropriate in-person visit.

A review of 43 cases filed with the state’s Medical Practice Board during the past five years found that 25 percent involved claims that a doctor improperly prescribed opioids to patients or family members, or had misused the drugs themselves. Another 30 percent involved inappropriate prescribing of other regulated drugs.

Vermont’s Governor Peter Shumlin told the newspaper he is concerned some doctors in the state might be partially responsible for the state’s problems with prescription drug abuse. “Most of our providers are extremely responsible, but this stuff is getting to the street somehow,” he said.

Some Vermont doctors say more training is needed for those prescribing pain medications. A new federal government strategy aimed at cutting the use of prescription painkillers by 15 percent in five years includes a requirement that doctors who prescribe oxycodone and other opioids undergo training on proper prescription practices.

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