In medical practice, patients are seen to take for granted that a visit to a Doctor will result in the prescribing of drugs for treating the illness at hand. However, a plethora of complaints and legal suits have been filed against medical practitioners for having prescribed addictive drugs or those that can trigger an addiction.
It is easy to assume that a medical practitioner would be aware of the harmful side effects of any given drug. Especially in cases of patients where the medical practitioner is required to set-up a scheme for pain management, it can be a difficult task to assess the probability of the patient to form an addiction to the treatment proposed.
Health Vic of the Victoria State Government regulates the prescribing, supply and use of scheduled medicines. The control of drugs is regulated by the issuing of licences and permits. The most addictive forms of drugs are those that are utilised for pain management. In the best interest of a medical practitioner, they must, prior to placing a patient on a pain medication scheme, consider mapping out a method to not only minimise the pain but one that will maximise the patients ability to function, with minimal or no side effects and one that will result in a gradual reduction of the medication taken so that it will not result in the formation of an addiction.
It is evident that a medical practitioner, as a professional, owes a standard of care to their patients. In fulfilling their obligations, it always advised that they must first understand the patients’ drug dependence. It is good medical practice to obtain and record a thorough history and perform proper examinations before utilising that information to create a management plan. The medical practitioner can confirm their findings and/or obtain a specialists opinion or have the matter referred to a specialist unit. If the medical practitioner is concerned about a patient’s drug intake they can take steps to inform the Prescribing Shopping Programme run by the Government. The program aims to curb prescription shopping, which the patient visits multiple doctors and obtains prescriptions for drugs in excess of what is required. Medical Practitioners can either call or confirm if their patient meets the program criteria and where they do, a patient summary report can be requested prior to continuing to prescribe regulated drugs.
This practice ensures that the medical practitioner is protected against claims in the future for having over prescribed to patients and it strengthens the mechanisms of practice management.
Medical practitioners must always maintain accurate health records of their patients with all medications that have been prescribed being noted diligently. A multitude of complaints have resulted in the licences of medical practitioners being cancelled as they not only over prescribed drugs leading to an addiction but they have also failed to maintain sufficient records. Medical Tribunals have found in such cases that the failure of a medical practitioner to maintain accurate records, having consulted with high number of patients and the issuing of ill monitored prescriptions is an indication of an intent to exploit the system for financial benefit.