Federal prosecutors in Atlanta have put about 30 doctors on notice that they’ve been identified for prescribing opioids in significantly greater quantities or doses than their peers.
The doctors, who were not publicly identified but work in the metro and North Georgia area, were notified by letter. Some also were found to have prescribed opioids to patients who may have a high risk of abuse, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Friday.
“Medical professionals have an obligation to the safety and well-being of their patients,” U.S. Attorney BJay Pak said in a statement. “Many opioid prescribers may not realize that they are over-prescribing 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.”
The letters are part of an initiative by the U.S. Department of Justice to reduce opioid prescriptions by one-third over the next three years. The Department of Justice has not determined if the 30 doctors who were put on notice have broken the law, but federal authorities will continue to monitor prescribing habits, Pak said.
In the letters, prosecutors provided the doctors with specific information about their prescription patterns. The doctors were also given guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for prescribing opioids for chronic pain.
Neil Campbell, executive director of the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse, applauded the move.
At the same time, the public needs to realize that there are “good doctors out there who must prescribe high levels of painkillers for people with real chronic pain,” Campbell said. “Their numbers might look out of whack but, on balance, what they are doing is necessary for their patients.”
Bill Rankin has been an AJC reporter for more than 30 years. His father, Jim Rankin, worked as an editor for the newspaper for 26 years, retiring in 1986. Bill has primarily covered the state’s court system, doing all he can do to keep the scales of justice on an even keel. Since 2015, he has been the host of the newspaper’s Breakdown podcast.