Study: Pain doctors rarely sanctioned for narcotic prescriptions

In recent times, the cases of pain doctors who have faced criminal prosecutions for their narcotic prescription patterns have gotten a lot of pressure. As it turns out, however, these cases may be anomalies rather than a widespread phenomenon. A new study published this month in the journal Pain Medicine found that a very small percentage of doctors have faced criminal sanctions in connection with prescriptions for narcotic painkillers.

The study found that 725 doctors--about 0.1 percent of practicing physicians--were prosecuted or sanctioned by their state's medical board between 1998 and 2006 on charges related to illegally or improperly prescribed narcotics. And of that group, only 25 doctors specialized in pain treatment, researchers found.

Critics of the study, meanwhile, note that there may still be a "chilling effect" on pain doctors due to law enforcement actions, given that they still faced the potential of visits from agencies like the DEA. Meanwhile, the study's authors themselves admitting that their review didn't account for prosecutions by state and local law enforcement against doctors.

To learn more about the study:
- read this piece from the New York Times

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