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'Extreme' Use of Painkillers and Doctor Shopping Plague Medicare, New Report Says

By ProPublica  
   July 13, 2017

Some Medicare beneficiaries are being prescribed opioids by 10 or more doctors. Hundreds of doctors appear to be prescribing indiscriminately, says the inspector general of Health and Human Services.

This article first appeared July 13, 2017 on ProPublica.

by Charles Ornstein

In Washington, D.C., a Medicare beneficiary filled prescriptions for 2,330 pills of oxycodone, hydromorphone and morphine in a single month last year – written by just one of the 42 health providers who prescribed the person such drugs.

In Illinois, a different Medicare enrollee received 73 prescriptions for opioid drugs from 11 prescribers and filled them at 20 different pharmacies. He sometimes filled prescriptions at multiple pharmacies on the same day.

These are among the examples cited in a sobering new report released today by the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The IG found that heavy painkiller use and abuse remains a serious problem in Medicare's prescription drug program, known as Part D, which serves more than 43 million seniors and disabled people. Among the findings:

ProPublica is an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest.


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