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Medical malpractice and physician dispensing

So, here’s a question for you.  Given the patient safety issues inherent in physician dispensing of repackaged drugs to work comp claimants, are medical malpractice liability carriers considering this issue when underwriting coverage?

If not, why not?

Here are some of the problems with physician dispensing…

  • as research from CWCI and WCRI illustrates, prescribing patterns often change when dispensing rules and reimbursement change. If a patient is harmed, and the prescribing pattern changed before that event, is there added risk for the carrier?
  • the doc often has never seen the patient before, so they don’t know what medication the patient is taking, their medical history, or situation. If they dispense meds, they have to do so without full insightinto
    • the patient’s medical history
    • current drug regimen and possibly dangerous drug-to-drug interactions
    • other treatments the patient is receiving from other providers
  • most dispensing docs only give drugs to their workers comp claimants. So, if a workers comp claimants gets meds and has a problem, and a group health patient with the same diagnosis is treated differently, the plaintiff’s lawyer is going to ask, why? what was the motivator?
  • in many states, docs can and do dispense addictive drugs – opioids particularly.  There’s obviously a financial incentive for the doc to dispense meds to a patient, and if and when one of the doc’s patients is diagnosed as an addict, the plaintiff’s lawyer may well raise the financial incentive as a possible factor.
  • if the doc is dispensing opioids to a patient, and those opioids are being diverted, is there an issue?

And that’s just what I can think of off the top of my head.  I’m guessing underwriters and risk managers can come up with a few more…


Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates



A national consulting firm specializing in managed care for workers’ compensation, group health and auto, and health care cost containment. We serve insurers, employers and health care providers.



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