Sunday, February 04, 2007

Overutilization of Prescription Drugs a Bad Thing

The Tennessean reports that the state of Tennessee leads the nation in per capita prescription drug prescriptions. The number of prescriptions per person in the state is 53% above the U.S. average, according to information provided in the story, which was based on a study by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. The most frequently prescribed drug: Hydrocodone, a highly addictive painkiller. The third most frequent was Nexium, an antacid probably prescribed frequently to help patients with the stomach problems caused by all of the painkillers they are taking.

With those statistics in mind, today's head in the sand award must go to Tennessee representative and physician Joey Hensley, who presumably with a straight face said, "It's not necessarily a bad thing. To me, that high number means we have a high number of sick people. I'm certain there are physicians who over-prescribe, but I don't think that a big percentage of doctors do."

What percentage of doctors overprescribe is not a question that can be answered. In fairness, it may not even be the fundamental problem. However, to claim that 53% above the U.S. average is "not necessarily a bad thing" is ridiculous. If that many more of us are sick, we should fire all of the doctors.

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