Medicare Fighting Painkiller Abuse
December 14, 2011

Medicare Fighting Painkiller Abuse

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is directing Medicare prescription drug plans to withhold payments for popular painkillers when they suspect patient abuse.

The agency encouraged doctors to issue prescriptions for painkillers that provide a supply of 30 days or less.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that in 2008, about 170,000 people in Medicare received prescriptions from five or more doctors for drugs that are frequently abused.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), painkillers like OxyContin and Percocet represent the fifth most-filled class of prescription drugs in Medicare.

Abuse of painkillers is also responsible for more deaths than illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin combined.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said last month that about 15,000 Americans died from a record number of overdoses and prescription painkillers in 2008.

It said that as of last year, 12 million Americans were using prescription opioid or narcotic pain relievers.

Vice President Biden announced Tuesday that the Justice Department recovered $5.6 billion from fraud in 2011, and $2.9 billion for health care fraud.

He said some of the money was recovered because officials spotted the fraud before Medicare paid a bill.


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