Sustained Outrage

Who writes the prescriptions?

Last week, the Center for Public Integrity published an interesting piece that noted that fraud in the form of misuse of doctors’ ID numbers is so rampant that Medicare cannot identify the top prescribers of certain drugs, particularly Ritalin and oxycodone, both of which are addictive and prone to be abused.

According to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) report released last week , the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are not checking to make sure that prescriptions paid by the health insurance plans that contract with Medicare are written by real doctors.

The new report, based on 2007 data, said invalid physician prescriber numbers are so common in Medicare records that the program cannot identify the doctors who prescribed the most oxycodone and Ritalin. Both are highly addictive and frequently trafficked on the street.

The OIG also said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services could not indentify the second-highest prescriber of methadone, a drug used to treat heroin addiction that is also sometimes diverted to street markets. The new report, which supplements a similar effort published by the OIG last June, focuses just on drugs with potential for abuse, which are known as Schedule II.