Prosecution of physicians for prescribing opioids to patients Academic Article uri icon


MeSH Major

  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Pain
  • Physicians
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'


  • Many patients in pain receive inadequate doses of opioids. Fear of government action against prescribing doctors is one cause of this inadequate treatment. The purpose of the study was to assess criminal prosecutions by reviewing press reports of indictments or trials of doctors for opioid offenses during 2 years. Forty-seven cases were reported involving 53 doctors. Fifteen cases were for offenses unrelated to medical practice. In 32 cases, the charge was based on determining the prescriptions for opioids were outside the bounds of proper medical practice. Only two of these cases were evaluated by a state medical board before indictment. Five doctors were indicted for murder related to drug overdose deaths. None were found guilty of murder. Prosecutorial excesses and hyperbole were common. The state medical board's review of appropriateness of prescribing opioids when a doctor-patient relationship is presumed to exist could decrease inappropriate criminal indictments and reduce this component of fear of prescribing adequate opioid therapy for patients in pain.

publication date

  • June 2007



  • Academic Article



  • eng

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1038/sj.clpt.6100127

PubMed ID

  • 17329989

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 903

end page

  • 6


  • 81


  • 6