Paducah Sun looks at two local doctors who write many prescriptions for painkillers; such local data are easily available

The Paducah Sun has used some easily available information about two local doctors to shine a local light on their heavy prescribing of opioids.

The story by Laurel Black begins, “As narcotic painkiller abuse has drawn more public attention, two Paducah physicians – who have been ranked high among prescribers of such drugs – have found themselves defending their practices.”

The story cites The Courier-Journal‘s analysis of 2012 Medicare data that showed Dr. Yogesh Malla of Paducah was “the No. 3 prescriber of narcotic painkillers in
the commonwealth. A USA Today article listed Dr. Riley Love, also of Paducah,
as 20th in the nation. Both reports used information the news organization
ProPublica obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.”

The Sun offers a quick retort from the medical director of the pain-management center where
Malla practices, paraphrasung him as saying “the reports omit or minimize important factors, such as
the specialty of the physicians and the morphine equivalence of the drugs they
prescribe.”

Dr. Laxmaiah Manchikanti also said in his written statement that his group emphasizes drugs with lower abuse potential and that more than 92 percent of patients at such centers “are already on long-term opioids; consequently, the best we can do (at these centers) is reduce the dosage.”

Manchikani is CEO of the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, a lobbying group that advocates monitoring of painlkiller prescriptions, and a leading contributor to a wde range of political causes. The Sun doesn’t note the latter point, but focuses on the issues of painkiller abuse, a major problem in Kentucky.

“With more than 1,000 deaths per year, Kentucky in 2013 had the third-highest drug overdose mortality rate in the United States, according to the Trust for America’s Health,” Black notes.

As for the other doctor, the Sun reports, “ProPublica’s data on Love, who practices at the Lourdes Pain Management Center,
reports that 59 percent of his 1,141 patients filled one or more prescriptions
for a Schedule 2 drug and 51 percent filled for a Schedule 3 drug. Both figures
are above the average of 45 percent and 41 percent, respectively, for his
specialty in Kentucky.

“A spokeswoman for Love said Lourdes center represents the only location in the
region where Medicaid patients receive inpatient pain consultations,” the Sun reports, quoting her: “The patients we see are often very sick, and the treatments and
medications we provide are the last resort comfort measures so the patients can
spend quality time with family” as they near death.

The story is behind the Sun’s paywall.

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