One-Third of Oxy Prescribers Acted Like Street Pushers During the Rise of the Opioid Epidemic

Today Alex Tabarrok highlights a new study that, as he says, should shock even those of us who consider ourselves stone cynics. The subject is prescription opioid abuse.

In 2010, Purdue Pharmaceutical introduced a new version of OxyContin that was more difficult to be abused. Doctors who worry about balancing genuine pain management against the possibility of abuse would be happy about this. Their prescriptions of OxyContin would likely go up. Conversely, doctors who are basically pill mills would be unhappy. They’d most likely switch to other opioids.

Long story short, Molly Schnell analyzed the prescribing behavior of 100,000 physicians and found that:

  • 40 percent acted like good doctors.
  • 30 percent acted like pill pushers.

(The other 30 percent were somewhere in-between.)

Are you shocked? If not, you really need to work on your cynicism.

Oh, and one more thing: the percentage of pill pushers varies by area. And areas with higher percentages also record higher rates of death from drug abuse.

Unbelievable. I’m speechless because I can’t think of a reaction fit for a family-ish publication. Tabarrok has more if you can stomach it.

UPDATE: I revised the headline to more accurately summarize the study.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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