Minnesota readers have probably heard the recent news that numerous pills found at the singer’s Paisley Park home contained fentanyl, the same drug that caused his death. Prince’s death by opioid painkiller has drawn attention to the serious problem in the United States of opioid addiction. In the weeks after his death, attention was also drawn to the problem of overprescription of painkillers.
At least one Minnesota doctor was placed under investigation following Prince’s death, but reports indicated that the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice takes an overall lax position with regard to physicians who overprescribe narcotics. One article indicated that between 2011 and 2015, a total of 25 doctors were disciplined for their prescribing practices with respect to narcotics. Most other states that have been researched on the issue have discipline rates nearly twice the rate in Minnesota.
Disciplinary action doled out by the board varies from case to case. In Minnesota, the board has focused more on re-educating doctors on proper prescription practices rather than punishing failures in this area. Of the 25 physicians who have been disciplined for narcotic prescribing practices in the last five years, most are still active—11 practicing under license restrictions or conditions and 7 practicing without restriction on their licenses.
Nobody will disagree, of course, that abusive prescription of painkillers is an important issue that must be addressed. The disagreement lies with the best way to tackle the problem. For any physician who becomes the subject of disciplinary action due to prescribing practices, it is critical to work with an experienced attorney to build the strongest possible case and to minimize long-term consequences to the ability to practice medicine.
Source: Star Tribune, “Pills seized from Paisley Park contained illicit fentanyl, same drug that killed Prince,” Stephen Montemayor, August 21, 2016.