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Doctor Shopping and Overmedicating Through Multiple Practitioners

As a term, overmedication is simply defined as inappropriate medical treatment that occurs when someone is either prescribed (or takes on their own) unnecessary or excessive medications. Sadly, this happens for a wide range of different reasons – sometimes a patient may simply be unaware of their recommended dosage, while other times it could be the result of human error or even unpredictable drug interactions. It can also be caused by a patient receiving multiple prescriptions from multiple providers.

As defined in Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience by physicians and medical researchers Randy A Sansone and Lori A Sansone, “doctor shopping” can refer to any instance in which a patient sees and receives prescription medication from more than one treatment provider. While many patients engage in this activity for the sole purpose of obtaining drugs illicitly, it is important to understand that not all cases of doctor shopping are driven by suspect motivations. Common reasons given for doctor shopping include both clinician-centered factors (such as inconvenient office hours and long waiting times) and patient-centered factors (such as the persistence of symptoms and the inability to understand/accept established diagnoses/treatments).

Regardless of its cause, doctor shopping can easily lead to serious medication problems. As detailed in Consumer Reports among other leading publications, the likelihood of experiencing dangerous pharmaceutical interactions (or simply being on too many drugs) increases dramatically in direct relation to the number of providers that a patient sees.

Physicians typically review the records of new patients quite thoroughly to identify and correct any pharmaceutical duplications, However, it is simply impossible to catch all of these duplications, particularly when dealing with drug-seeking patients who may be deliberately obscuring their medical histories and/or tampering with their official lists of medication. Patients with multiple providers who want to protect themselves from overmedication are encouraged to keep a comprehensive list of all medications taken that includes both brand and generic names. But there is simply no substitute for limiting one’s overall number of physicians.

For more information about doctor shopping and the prevalence of overmedication among patients who see multiple healthcare providers, contact a specialized medicolegal specialist at Expedient Medicolegal Services. Our highly select team of Board Certified Qualified Medical Evaluators is ready to answer any question that you have about this phenomenon and other important issues in the fields of medical diagnosis and treatment.