'Doctor Shopping' Leads North Carolina Authorities To Take Action

By Beth Leipholtz 01/08/18

A new law aims to cut down on the growing number of doctor shoppers in the state.

Doctor hand shaking with man in hospital

The opioid epidemic’s impact in North Carolina has led authorities to investigate how prescription drugs wind up on the streets. 

One such way is a concept referred to as “doctor shopping.”

According to Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, doctor shopping “entails the scheduling by patients of office visits with multiple clinicians for the same agenda, either for a continuing illness or to procure prescription drugs illicitly. As expected, the explicit definitions in the literature vary considerably, with a significant proportion focusing on a given illness episode.”

In other words, doctor shopping is the act of visiting multiple doctors in hopes of having a prescription given and then filled from each. 

WRAL, a Raleigh-based news outlet, reports that in 2010, the State Bureau of Investigation says there were 88 cases of doctor shopping. In 2016, that number rose 110% to 184 cases. 

Jay Campbell, executive director of the North Carolina Board of Pharmacy, told WRAL that while action is being taken on the issue, it will likely never be eradicated. "We're certainly hoping that we can radically reduce the scope of drug diversion from pharmacies or any place else," he said. "But it is a problem that is never going to go away." 

Campbell says that certain signs can tip pharmacists off to doctor shoppers, including if they visit a pharmacy far outside their normal location or bring in prescriptions from doctors the pharmacy is not familiar with. 

In addition to asking pharmacists to be alert and ask questions when appropriate, officials are working to put other systems in place, including a system in which doctors in North Carolina can register when they prescribe opioids. 

According to NBC Charlotte, about three people die daily in North Carolina due to drug overdoses. About half of those deaths are due to opioid painkillers. 

In order to decrease this number, a new law, referred to as the Strengthen Opioid Misuse Prevent Act, went into effect In North Carolina on Jan. 1.

This law allows doctors to only give five days' worth of opioids for pain from things like broken bones. After a surgery, they can prescribe seven days' worth. Refills can be given as needed, but the first refill will be limited. This law does not apply to those with chronic pain, those in nursing homes, or those in hospice care.

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at www.lifetobecontinued.com, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.