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New Jersey cracks down on sources of narcotics feeding addictions

The state of New Jersey has had enough of doctors who carelessly and needlessly prescribe painkillers without adequate oversight or countermeasures designed to keep patients from becoming addicted.

In total, New Jersey has yanked the licenses of or served criminal complaints on 32 people over the past year -- including one individual who had treated patients for almost three decades without a license.

The focus has been on stopping "pill mills," or prescribers who are writing too many prescriptions for opioid painkillers -- especially for people who don't actually need them for chronic pain. Opioid addiction has become epidemic in some parts of the United States, and it's estimated that four out of five heroin users get started through the use of prescription painkillers.

All told, New Jersey's Board of Medical Examiners revoked the licenses of eight doctors, suspended five for significant terms and accepted one voluntary retirement. Temporary license suspensions were obtained for the rest, while investigations into their actions continue.

Some of those doctors who were disciplined for their actions engaged in obviously risky behavior:

-- Not verifying the medical justification for a painkiller before prescribing it

-- Failing to screen patients to root out the drug-seekers and "doctor shoppers" among them

-- Failing to keep proper records

-- Allowing a family member to use pre-signed prescription pads to write prescriptions even though the family member was not a medical professional

-- Prescribing an oral spray that's designed only for cancer patients to patients without cancer

Doctors aren't being targeted for disciplinary measures alone. Physician assistants, chiropractors, pharmacists, pharmacy techs and social workers have also been investigated and disciplined for the way that they handled the distribution and prescription of narcotics. Even a printing company was targeted for investigation -- and its authority to print prescription pads for physicians was terminated because the company wasn't following security requirements.

If you have suffered because a physician prescribed pain medication without carefully considering the potential consequences and using adequate controls to make certain that you didn't succumb to addiction, you may have a valid medical malpractice case. For more information, contact an attorney to discuss your case.

Source: Middletown Patch, "32 Have Lost NJ Doctor Jobs After Misdeeds, Malpractice, Officials Say," Tom Davis, May 26, 2017

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