1. Look up your doctor
Prescriber Checkup includes every doctor, nurse practitioner, physician assistant and other licensed provider who wrote at least 50 prescriptions in Part D during 2011. You can find out how many prescriptions these providers wrote, their most-prescribed drugs and how they compare with others in their state in the same specialty. You can search for your doctor or browse by state or medication. You can also identify top prescribers for each drug, state and specialty.
2. See if your doctor has experience with the drugs you take
Prescriber Checkup can be an ongoing resource. If your doctor prescribes you a new drug, you can see if he or she has used it before and whether other doctors in Part D commonly prescribe it.
On each provider’s page, drugs are listed according to the number of prescriptions written, including refills. The adjacent column shows the rank of the same drugs among all prescribers in that specialty and state (except in specialties where there were too few providers to compare.) Because some drugs are particularly risky for seniors, a separate column lists the number of those prescriptions given to those over 65. Medicare also covers the disabled.
3. Compare your doctor to his or her peers
Doctors, even in the same specialty and state, often treat the same conditions with very different medications — and not all are proper. Some prescribe more drugs that are potentially addictive or dangerous; some regularly choose expensive name-brand drugs over generic alternatives. If your doctor prescribes very differently than colleagues, you should inquire about it.
4. Find out if your doctor has a financial relationship with drug makers
You can use our Dollars for Docs database (there’s a link on each provider’s page in Prescriber Checkup) to see whether your doctor received speaking or consulting fees, meals or gifts from any of the 15 different drug companies that have publicly reported this information. If so, you can check to see whether the company makes any of the drugs you take.
5. Ask questions
If your doctor prescribes a drug that his peers seldom choose, you should ask about it. Prescribing differently from peers doesn’t itself signal a problem, but Prescriber Checkup lets you compare and ask informed questions. Similarly, if you are given drugs from companies with whom your doctor has financial ties, you can ask if that influenced the choice.
For questions about our data, click here.