By BARRY MEIER
Published: April 8, 2012
SEATTLE — It was the type of conversation that Dr. Claire Trescott dreads: telling physicians that they are not cutting it.
But the large health care system here that Dr. Trescott helps manage has placed controls on how painkillers are prescribed, like making sure doctors do not prescribe too much. Doctors on staff have been told to abide by the guidelines or face the consequences.
So far, two doctors have decided to leave, and two more have remained but are being closely monitored.
“It is excruciating,” said Dr. Trescott, who oversees primary care at Group Health. “These are often very good clinicians who just have this fatal flaw.”
High-strength painkillers known as opioids represent the most widely prescribed class of medications in the United States. And over the last decade, the number of prescriptions for the strongest opioids has increased nearly fourfold, with only limited evidence of their long-term effectiveness or risks, federal data shows. Continue reading