In a new study released by the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), more than 417,000 unauthorized prescriptions were shown to be paid for by Medicare's drug program in 2009. The list of unlicensed prescribers includes massage therapists, athletic trainers, dietitians, audiologists, opticians and home health aides. Over 30,000 of those prescriptions were for controlled substances like opioid painkillers. According to the report, such prescribing could "endanger patients" and "may also contribute to the prescription drug abuse problem in our nation."
The report does not specify whether the drugs were actually prescribed by the unlicensed providers or if a pharmacy had mistakenly attributed drugs to them that were legitimately authorized by others. It is also possible that the prescriptions were fraudulent.
The inspector general identified prescribers and their specialties using a federal database that includes unique identification numbers assigned by the Drug Enforcement Administration, addresses and practice information reported by providers, including their primary specializations.
In response to the report, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said that it is working on its database, but noted that it is the responsibility of health professionals to keep their information up-to-date.
"We have already launched several efforts to address these vulnerabilities, such as an intervention program in an area of high drug abuse and better data analyses to detect patterns of fraud and abuse," a CMS spokesman said in a statement . "We agree with the [inspector general's] recommendations and are evaluating next steps to continue improving our oversight of [Medicare] Part D."
Congress will hold a hearing on the report next week, as unauthorized Medicare payments affect the federal budget.
Is someone in your life receiving prescription medication from unauthorized sources? If so, now is the time to consider an intervention. At Intervention Services, our experienced staff can assist you in finding the best treatment option for your loved one.