What do the rankings mean?
On each prescriber’s page, drugs are listed according to the number of claims. The adjacent column shows the rank of those drugs among all prescribers in that specialty and state. When there are 10 or fewer in a given state, no comparison rankings will be shown.
Why is there additional information about narcotics and antipsychotics?
These two classes of medications are sometimes given for inappropriate reasons. Misuse and abuse of narcotics led to about 16,000 overdose deaths in 2010. Antipsychotics are frequently given to dementia patients, though it increases their risk of death. Critics say they are used as chemical restraints in nursing homes. A high rate of prescribing of either kind of drug doesn’t itself signal a problem, but the data allow you to compare prescribers and ask informed questions.
Why note the percentage of patients 65 and older?
Medicare covers seniors as well as people with disabilities, so prescribers’ drug choices may vary based on the nature of their practices. Also, the American Geriatrics Society has compiled what’s called the Beers list of drugs that are risky for seniors and might be inappropriate. If you are a senior and take one of these drugs, you may want to ask your provider about it. We’ve created a chart with the most-prescribed Beers drugs to the elderly in 2010.
How do you know a provider’s specialty?
We used the primary specialty chosen by the health professionals themselves. Providers are required to identify this specialty when they apply for a federal health-care ID number. (In cases for which we did not have a prescriber’s ID number, or if a specialty was not specified, no comparisons are shown.) A provider’s chosen specialty doesn’t always mean the person has special training or certification. For example, some doctors select a specialty called “Specialist,” which can be a catchall for providers of different fields.
Also, doctors may have incorrectly entered their specialty or may have changed specialties without updating their profiles. Some providers also classified themselves as a group practice, and we identified those in parentheses next to the specialty. The date each provider updated his or her profile is noted.
My doctor ranks as a high prescriber for some drugs. Is that bad?
Not necessarily. Some doctors treat more seniors and disabled patients than their peers, and naturally their numbers would be higher. For instance, they may see many patients in institutional settings, such as nursing homes. At the same time, if your doctor’s most frequently prescribed drugs differ from those of his or her peers, it might be worth asking about.