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Probe: Drug abusers exploiting Medicare benefit

The Boston Globe/Associated Press, October 4, 2011
Drug abusers are exploiting Medicare prescription's benefit to score large quantities of painkillers, and taxpayers have to foot most of the bill, congressional investigators say in a report. About 170,000 Medicare recipients received prescriptions from multiple doctors for 14 frequently abused medications in 2008, the Government Accountability Office found in an investigation for the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. A Medicare recipient in Georgia got prescriptions for 3,655 oxycodone pills -- more than a four-year supply of the painkiller -- from 58 different prescribers. Another, in California, got prescriptions for a nearly five-year supply of fentanyl patches and pills from 21 different prescribers. Fentanyl is a powerful narcotic used to treat relentless cancer pain. The cost of the questionable prescriptions amounted to $148 million in 2008. Overall, taxpayers pay three-fourths of the cost of the Medicare prescription drug program, which covers some 28 million seniors and disabled people for about $55 billion a year.

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