June 20, 2013

Questionable and potentially harmful prescriptions, costing the US government some $352 million, were prescribed for elderly and disabled patients by 736 general care physicians under the national insurance program Medicare, a new report revealed.

The 28-page report by the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services, titled ‘Prescribers with Questionable Patterns in Medicare Part D,’ identified some of the doctors’ prescriptions as “very extreme,” and concluded that the individuals need to be further investigated.

The report red-flagged the records of more than 2,200 doctors for either overprescribing drugs to individual patients, promoting brand-name drugs, painkillers and other addictive drugs, or using an alarmingly high number of pharmacies to dispense drugs.

A total of 87,000 general care physicians on the list in 2009 were reviewed, which is about half of all prescribing doctors in the program during that year. Moreover, 736 of those physicians were identified as “extreme outliers,” calling the legitimacy and necessity of the prescriptions into question.

In one instance, 24 doctors issued more than 400 prescriptions, including refills, for a single patient, while the average doctor writes about 13 prescriptions per patient, report said.

One doctor from Ohio went overboard in prescribing perceptions for more than a dozen patients. An Illinois doctor was flagged for having his prescriptions filled by 872 pharmacies in 47 states and Guam. In comparison, doctors have their prescriptions filled by 52 pharmacies on average.

The annual price tag paid by the government for these medications is massive, at a cost of $352 million to cover drugs ordered by flagged doctors.

One California doctor’s prescriptions cost Medicare $9.7 million – 151 times the cost of prescriptions ordered by an average doctor. The report also revealed that the doctor was supplied by two pharmacies that in the past were labeled as having questionable billing practices by the inspector general, the Washington Post reported.

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