Doctors Or Drug Dealers? Doctors Still Overprescribing Painkillers

A government report reveals medication abuse remains a major problem in Medicare’s prescription drug program, which also continues to be ripped off by doctors.

An inspector general report released Thursday by the Department of Health and Human Services shows one-third of Medicare beneficiaries prescribed opioids received scripts for more than six months. Nearly half a million beneficiaries received high doses of opioids, equivalent to 12 pills of 10 mg Vicodin each day, for at least three months in 2016, reports NPR.

While a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows medical professionals are making strides to reduce overall opioid prescriptions, there are still many offenders. 401 medical prescribers were found to be enabling doctor shopping patients, issuing massive doses of opioids to bill to Medicare.

A Medicare beneficiary in Washington, D.C., filled scripts for 2,330 painkillers in one month from a single doctor, one of 42 the individual went to for the medications. A prescriber wrote roughly 31 prescriptions annually in Missouri for 112 Medicare beneficiaries every year.

Federal prosecutors charged hundreds of people for defrauding health care programs of more than $1 billion Thursday and illegally flooding the black market with opioids.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the offenders ripped off Medicare and Medicaid along with the health insurance program servicing U.S. veterans. The Department of Justice charged 412 people for the fraud, including nearly 300 health care providers, who were also either suspended or banned from federal health care programs over the violations.

“They seem oblivious to the disastrous consequences of their greed,” Sessions said Thursday in a statement. “Their actions not only enrich themselves, often at the expense of taxpayers, but also feed addictions and cause addictions to start.”

Sessions said 120 people charged in the fraud, which totaled $1.3 billion, were involved in overprescribing and diverting shipments of opioid medications to the black market.

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