Looks like a freely available online database that reveals which doctors are prescribing what pills has partly backfired. Stephen Engelberg, editor-in-chief at ProPublica—which unveiled Prescriber Checkup in 2013—admits as much. "Thousands of the people ... viewed the 'reporting recipe' we wrote to help local journalists identify doctors who ranked among the top prescribers of narcotics," he writes at ProPublica. "The readership for this recipe far exceeds any reasonable estimate of local or regional journalists researching stories." He also concedes that "many readers" are looking up searches like "doctors who prescribe narcotics easily" or "doctors that will prescribe anything."
The database has had many positive uses as well, Engelberg says. ProPublica reporters have used it to uncover questionable prescriptions of antipsychotics and painkillers; doctors have used it to compare themselves with peers; law enforcement has used it to investigate illicit pain-medication trafficking and fraud; and patients have used it to wisely compare doctors. But Engelberg is seeing the dark side at a time when the CDC says opioid painkillers are creating an addiction crisis, NBC News reports. ProPublica's solution? For now, it's warning surfers of the database about addiction crisis and linking to CDC advice on using opioids to relieve pain. (Read more opioids stories.)