I always say it in this blog: To protect themselves and their patients, doctors have to know the law of controlled substance prescribing. It is not enough to know some guidelines. It’s not enough to go to medical school. For a medical provider to make a dent in the prescription drug epidemic, and to be prepared to withstand a law enforcement investigation into their prescribing patterns, doctors must also know the law.
Two recent developments provide an opportunity for doctors to learn what they need to know. First, approximately 60 medical schools around the U.S. have pledged to teach medical students about opioid and other narcotic prescribing. While some critics see this as window dressing or lip service, I say good for the med schools for taking this on. The more med students learn about this phenomenon, which will invariably confront them in one way or another when they begin practice, the better.
Second, an important piece of the new federal effort, an authorization (as yet unfunded) for a $700 million opioid epidemic legislative response passed by Congress and signed by the President involves physician education. A recent article in The Atlantic magazine discusses this. Specifically, physicians, says the legislation, need to be educated more broadly and in greater numbers about opioid and narcotic prescribing and how to help tackle the crisis. If the education doctors will be receiving includes a close study of the legal landscape in this area, the course of study will hit all the points it needs to. If the legal curriculum is just recycled, vague gibberish from past D.E.A. trainings, it will be useless. And if there’s no legal aspect at all to the training doctors will receive, my belief is that providers will be left unprotected, even as a new patient-protection demand is being placed on them.
The proof will be in the pudding, but at least there are steps which can potentially be taken in the right direction.