Pharmacy Benefit Managers Group Suggests Ways to Reduce Prescription Drug Abuse

The national association representing pharmacy benefits managers, which administer prescription drug plans for more than 210 million Americans, has released recommendations aimed at reducing prescription drug abuse and fraud in Medicare.

The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA) made its recommendations in a letter to members of Congress. The group wants lawmakers to create a select number of  “safe pharmacies” in Medicare Part D, which covers prescription benefits, The Hill reports. These pharmacies would be allowed to distribute controlled substances to high-risk patients. “This maintains beneficiary access to needed medications, but prevents ‘drugstore shopping,’” the letter states.

The group also wants legislators to require drugstores and pharmacists to register with state prescription drug monitoring programs. PCMA notes that currently most drugstores choose not to participate in these programs.

“While it is difficult to stop abusers from ‘doctor shopping’ for prescriptions among hundreds of thousands of prescribes, it is much easier to keep them from gaining physical custody of narcotics,” PCMA President Mark Merritt wrote.

The recommendations are in response to a recent report by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Inspector General, which found Medicare paid for prescriptions for drugs, including controlled substances such as oxycodone, written by professionals including massage therapists, home health aides and veterinarians, who were not authorized to do so.

The report found 29,212 prescriptions for controlled substances were ordered by 4,863 people who were not authorized to write such prescriptions. These included 7,679 prescriptions for Schedule II drugs such as oxycodone and morphine.

Other professionals who wrote unauthorized prescriptions included athletic trainers, dieticians, opticians, transportation companies, and music and art therapists. The report cited a Florida massage therapist who wrote 3,756 prescriptions, an Ohio social worker who wrote 1,539 prescriptions and an interpreter who wrote 1,210.