A new study by the Department of Health and Human Services highlights a variety of problems concerning prescription medication practices among doctors and pharmacies servicing Medicare patients, including over-prescribing, over-billing, and over-medicating.
The review identified more than 2,200 doctors whose records stood out in one of five areas: prescriptions per patient, brand name drugs, painkillers and other addictive drugs or the number of pharmacies that dispensed their orders, according to this article.
More than half of 736 physicians studied wrote prescriptions for extremely high amounts of controlled substances that have the potential for addiction and abuse, the article says.
All told, the drugs ordered by the doctors labeled “extreme outliers” cost Medicare $352 million, according to the study.
In 2008, more than 36,000 people died from drug overdoses, and most of these deaths were caused by prescription drugs, according to the CDC.
Nearly three out of four prescription drug overdoses are caused by prescription painkillers. The unprecedented rise in overdose deaths in the U.S. parallels a 300% increase since 1999 in the sale of these medications, which were involved in 14,800 overdose deaths in 2008, more than cocaine and heroin combined, the CDC says.
The misuse and abuse of prescription painkillers was responsible for more than 475,000 emergency department visits in 2009, a number that nearly doubled in just five years, according to the CDC.