The number of drugs prescribed by nurse practitioners and physician assistants is rising dramatically, reflecting their increased legal authority and growing acceptance by doctors. Nurse practitioners wrote 15 million prescriptions in the United States last year, up 66 percent from 1997, according to a study by the consulting firm Scott-Levin. Physician assistants wrote 12 million prescriptions, up 33 percent. Those numbers still represent only a fraction of the 2.5 billion prescriptions written annually.
Physician assistants, who practice medicine under a doctor's supervision, can write prescriptions in 46 states, almost twice as many as a decade ago. States not granting them legal authority are Louisiana, Mississippi, Indiana and Ohio. Nurse practitioners ? registered nurses with advanced, specialized training ? can write prescriptions in all 50 states, although in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Ohio, a doctor is required to co-sign the order. About 34,000 physician assistants and 60,000 nurse practitioners work in the United States. The two specialties began in the 1980s as a way to complement physicians and offer a less expensive alternative to help busy practices and hospital clinics.
COMMENT: Isn?t this peachy? It is bad enough that medical doctors are writing TWO AND ONE HALF BILLION prescriptions per year. Now we have allied health professionals writing another 30 million a year. When using prescriptions, it is important to remember that they reactions to physician prescribe drugs are the FOURTH leading cause of death in this country, right behind heart attacks, cancer and strokes.