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Getting Painkillers from Multiple Doctors can be Dangerous

Update Date: Feb 21, 2014 10:00 AM EST
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According to a new study, roughly one-third of seniors with Medicare utilize more than one doctor in order to get multiple drug prescriptions. The study researchers reported that getting painkillers from many different sources could increase the risk of hospitalization.

"As physicians, we tell patients not to drive when they take opioids, but we also need to tell them that it can be dangerous to receive these medications from more than one provider," said study author Dr. Anupam Jena, an assistant professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School according to HealthDay.

The researchers examined data on 1.8 million people who had Medicare health insurance. All of the participants reported receiving prescription narcotic painkillers, also known as opioids, which included hydrocodone, oxycodone and morphine. The researchers discovered that around 35 percent of the sample set was prescribed opioids from more than one physician. 23.1 percent of them received narcotic painkillers from two providers, 9.5 percent from three providers and 7.9 percent from four or more providers.

"I thought it would be 5 to 10 percent. When we ran the numbers and it turned out to be 30 percent, we were shocked," said Jena reported by The Almagest.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), over the past two decades, prescription painkillers have nearly tripled. From 1991 to 2009, prescription narcotics have soared to over 200 million a year. If this trend continues to grow, older patients could face more health problems.

"Patients with four or more prescribers were twice as likely to be hospitalized for narcotics-related complications than patients receiving the same number of prescriptions from a single caregiver," study co-author Pinar Karaca-Mandic, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, said reported by FOX News.

The researchers concluded that doctors have to continue to inform their patients about the risks involved with taking several prescription painkillers provided by more than one doctor. The study was published in the British Medical Journal.

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