Physicians Who Prescribe Too Many Painkillers Head Back to School to Save Licenses

Investigators at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center created the Center for Professional Health (CPH), which provides a program for health professionals who overprescribe painkillers or other controlled drugs.

The three-day course, "Prescribing Controlled Drugs: Critical Issues and Common Pitfalls," allows participants the opportunity to:

  • Vent anger at being accused of wrongdoing.
  • Examine the reasons that might underlie their prescribing problems.
  • Learn strategies designed to prevent problems in the future.

Key Results

  • Project staff held four pilot sessions of the course, serving 33 physicians.

  • After refining the course, they held 16 additional sessions with a total of 113 physicians from 14 states.

Key Findings

  • The vast majority of participants had prescribed large quantities of narcotics for back pain, migraine headaches, arthritis, and other "non-malignant" conditions.

  • These physicians often had a history of being duped by drug-seeking patients, prescribing for office staff or family members, or not documenting their treatment decisions in patient records.

  • The majority were in solo practice in small towns or rural areas, and some had a drug use problem themselves.