Prescription Drug Abuse and Medicare: The Problem Facing Legislators

prescription drugs that are abusedIt’s a problem that creates high costs on every front – thousands of lives are lost every year and billions of dollars are wasted due to the ongoing problem of prescription drug abuse. To say that legislators are concerned is an understatement. This particular brand of addiction is killing constituents, and not only is the addiction often funded by taxpayer money through abuse of Medicare but the bill for the fallout is being covered by taxpayers as well, according to The Hill.

Medicare Reforms

Though it is not the case with every patient who is prescribed prescription painkillers and on Medicare – not by a long shot – it is sometimes the case that Medicare recipients abuse their prescription, often doing what others do to get more of the desired pills: committing fraud. This is done by either altering a legitimate prescription from a doctor for the medication to increase the number of pills, by getting the same prescription from multiple doctors, or by filling the prescription multiple times at different pharmacies.

Though many states have prescription drug monitoring programs in place to help prevent these practices, not all states do, and in the states where they do exist, not all doctors or pharmacists utilize the database. Some suggest that, when it comes to Medicare recipients specifically, it may be a good idea to put into place a “lock-in” policy that would have the patient choose just one pharmacy to get all of their Medicare-covered medications. Because the same pharmacy team would fill all the prescriptions, multiple trips to get refills in a short amount of time or multiple prescriptions for the same or similar medication from different doctors would be a red flag. Additionally, it would stop the practice of “drugstore shopping,” where a patient may take the same prescription to multiple pharmacies and get it filled multiple times.

Another suggestion is blocking funding for Medicare patients to pharmacies that are suspected of engaging in – or allowing – prescription fraud. This would serve as an incentive to pharmacies that may be overlooking the signs of fraud rather than taking the time to investigate when prescription drug abuse is suspected.

In the Meantime…

Though legislative changes may be especially helpful in curbing new cases of abuse and may one day be helpful in identifying people in need of addiction treatment due to an active addiction, discussion of different legislative options won’t help your addicted loved one today – only you can do that.

Contact us at Axis now and connect your addicted family member with our comprehensive addiction treatment program. Learn how we can provide evidence-based detox and rehabilitation services that can help them stop abusing prescription drugs now.