Are Painkillers Overprescribed to Older Patients?

May 5, 2015

Is pain really the biggest health problem elderly patients experience?

Is pain really the biggest health problem elderly patients experience? A recent article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Painkiller Tops Medicare List” suggests it is.

The fact that generic Vicodin was the most widely prescribed medication among Medicare beneficiaries in 2013 makes the idea logical.

I often wonder whether pain substitutes feelings of loneliness or disappointment. Rather than taking time to tackle psychosocial issues, providers quickly prescribe a drug to treat the problem described by the patient. Then, we wonder why we have so much prescription drug addiction and so many overdose-related deaths.

While it’s easy to second guess a prescriber’s decision when you don't have the patient in front of you, I still have a hard time believing pain that requires a narcotic is the chief health problem reported by older adults.