A little-known health care policy has played a role in the worsening U.S. opioid epidemic, Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) said during a recent interview with ATTN:.
The federal policy requires clinics to send patients questionnaires that essentially ask, "did you leave the office pain-free?" King said. That creates an "incentive to prescribe these very powerful pain medications."
"This is the law of unintended consequences." — Sen. King
Experts agree that prescription painkillers have contributed to soaring rates of opioid addiction in the country. In some cases, patients prescribed these drugs for legitimate medical conditions became dependent – and will seek out cheaper, more potent opioids such as heroin when their prescription run out.
Recent legislative efforts to combat the opioid epidemic have taken aim at prescribing practices, setting limits on the amount and potency of painkillers doctors can prescribe and increasing funding for addiction treatment programs, for example. But one issue standing in the way of pharmaceutical regulations is the use of self-reported pain evaluations to assess clinics and doctors.
"Part of my paycheck comes from satisfaction scores," Dr. Thomas Benzoni, an emergency medicine physician in Iowa, told The New York Times. "So I pay for not giving narcotics [to patients] with a smaller paycheck."