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30 medical professionals on notice for overprescribing opioids

In an effort to crack down on the potential overprescribing of opioids, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia will send letters to roughly 30 people in the medical field who deviate from their peers.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Friday, Oct. 5, it identified this group of people “prescribing opioids in significantly higher quantities than their peers or to patients who may pose a high risk of abuse or diversion.”

“Medical professionals have an obligation to the safety and well-being of their patients,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak in a news release. “Many opioid prescribers may not realize that they are overprescribing opioids. We aim to make these medical prescribers — who are outliers — aware of their atypical practices, so that they can make informed decisions about whether their opioid prescriptions are for a legitimate medical purpose. We will also continue to monitor prescribing habits.”

A representative from the U.S. Attorney’s Office told The Times they would not release the names or locations of these people “as they have not violated the law.”

“The letters are intended to make the medical professionals aware of their prescribing patterns and also offer educational resources to educate them on prescribing practices,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The educational materials will include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on opioids.

After July 1 of this year, prescribers in Georgia are required to check the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program database before “prescribing opiates or cocaine derivatives in Schedule II drugs or benzodiazepines.”

Examples of benzodiazepines include Xanax and Valium.

House Bill 249 in 2017 created the law enforcing the use of the database to protect against potential abuse.

In 2012, Northeast Georgia Medical Center changed to a three-day supply for prescription painkillers in the emergency room.

The electronic record system, Epic, also has shown hospital officials that fewer prescriptions are being written. 

Deb Bailey, Northeast Georgia Health System executive director of governmental affairs, said medical professionals now scrutinize more on the amount prescribed and what alternatives may be available.