• drug prescriptions;
  • narcotics



Prescription monitoring programs scrutinize the prescribing of controlled substances to diminish the utilization of multiple prescribers (aka. “doctor shopping”). The use of multiple prescribers is not a problem per se and can be legitimate, as when the patient's regular physician is not available or a concurrent painful condition is being cared for by a different practitioner.


The primary objective of this study was to determine if those patients who used a few prescribers (two to five) in a 1-year period were distinguishable from those who used only one prescriber.


We performed a secondary data analysis of the California Prescription Monitoring Program, the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System, by using data collected during 1999–2007.


The group who used a few providers (two to five) differed substantially from those who visited one provider over a 1-year period. However, the dissimilarity did not suggest that these patients were more prone to the abuse of opioids.


The decision not to investigate patients who visit a low number of multiple prescribers (two to five) appears to be justifiable. If the number of providers in a given period of time is used to determine if a patient should be challenged as being a “doctor shopper,” cutoffs with high specificity (low false-positive rates) should be chosen. Further epidemiologic research is needed to determine the association of the number of prescribers and misuse and/or abuse of opioids. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.