PriceCheck: Drug Addicts May Be Misusing Transparency Tool

May 19, 2016

A database set up by ProPublica detailing the prescribing habits of doctors around the country may be luring the wrong audience, the publication recently reported.

ProPublica determined that a percentage of those using its Prescriber Checkup found it after web searches like "doctors who prescribe narcotics easily" or "doctors that will prescribe anything," the website reported.

Most of the traffic to the database comes from legitimate users, such as doctors who want to see how their colleagues are prescribing medications, medical plan administrators, hospitals and even law enforcement officials looking for fraud.

However, ProPublica found clear signs that some users are searching the data to find doctors who will prescribe them painkillers, anti-anxiety medications, amphetamines and other widely abused prescription drugs, the website reported.

In a letter to readers, ProPublica’s Editor-In-Chief Stephen Engelberg acknowledged that transparency can sometimes come with unintended consequences.

Transparency is at the heart of a Health News Florida reporting project about health care costs. PriceCheck lets you to search and contribute to a database of common medical procedures.

Julio Ochoa reports for WUSF in Tampa. Health News Florida receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.