Medicare Starts Identifying Doctors Who May Prescribe Too Many Painkillers

doctor writing prescription 12-18-14

This year Medicare has started examining prescribing data to identify physicians who write large numbers of prescriptions for narcotic painkillers and stimulants. Next year Medicare will be able to kick doctors out of the program if they are found to be prescribing in abusive ways, USA Today reports.

Twelve of Medicare’s top 20 prescribers of drugs such as oxycodone, morphine, fentanyl and Ritalin faced disciplinary actions by their state medical boards or criminal charges related to their medical practices in 2012. These are Schedule 2 drugs, meaning the government classifies them as having a high potential for abuse. One doctor in Huntsville, Alabama, wrote more than 14,000 Schedule 2 prescriptions in 2012. He had his controlled-substances certificate suspended by the state medical board, and surrendered his medical license.

Medicare’s drug program, Medicare Part D, pays for more than one-fourth of prescriptions dispensed in the United States, the article notes. The program covers about 38 million seniors and disabled people.

An analysis by ProPublica found 269 providers wrote at least 3,000 prescriptions for Schedule 2 drugs in 2012. The largest number of these doctors were concentrated in Florida (52), followed by Tennessee (25). In September, Medicare sent letters to 760 physicians who prescribed the most Schedule 2 drugs in their medical specialty and state. The agency also sent information about 71 doctors for possible investigation to the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Simply being an outlier doesn’t establish that you’re doing something wrong,” said Shantanu Agrawal, Director of the Center for Program Integrity at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “What we are trying to do is give physicians the ability to assess themselves, given their comparative data.”

    User Picture

    Billy, RPh, CACII

    December 22, 2014 at 8:54 AM

    This is a great example of how people with chronic pain will now face even more barriers. Putting any doctor on a “Top ten” list makes them look like they have done something wrong and many will deny needed opioid meds to their patients to stay off this list. In reality this will do nothing to reduce the perceived “opioid epidemic”. Those who chose to live a life using illegal drugs simply find another drug to use. There are many to chose from including heroin, marijuana and “outlaw” Rx opioids bought on the internet. This also does nothing to decrease this demand. At the same time chronic pain sufferers are treated like “addicts” when they get their prescriptions filled and are afraid to ask their doctor for higher doses. It is disappointing that folks with the power to help people choose to make things worse. They have obviously just read the “headlines” about Rx drug abuse and not the “fine print” which tells a different story. Shame on you and pray that you or no one around you ever suffers from a painful condition.

Leave a Comment

Please leave a comment below to contribute to the discussion. If you have a specific question, please contact a Parent Specialist, who will provide you with one-on-one help.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *