Have you ever known someone who sold their extra oxycodone or Vicodin pills to fellow coworkers to make a quick buck? Maybe you know someone who faked an illness just to get a prescription for painkillers? Whether or not you yourself have done these things, or know someone that has, a new report reveals that almost 200,000 people do things like this every year.
The study sheds light on a disturbing trend, explaining that around 170,000 people who are Medicare beneficiaries are using the system to their own personal advantage. Medicare has been slow to recognize and stop prescription drug abuse
due to loopholes in Part D of their system.
People who receive benefits from Medicare have been getting prescriptions from multiple doctors at once and filling them at numerous pharmacies, allowing them to gather large quantities of powerful prescription drugs in a short period of time. There are about 14 different painkillers and narcotics that tend to be abused the most, with the most popular ones being oxycodone and hydrocodone products like Percocet, Vicodin and Oxycontin.
A chilling example of this particular type of prescription drug abuse was published in the New York Times
. The case involves a woman from Georgia, who was a Medicare beneficiary
. The woman received enough oxycodone to last 150 days in only 27 days. She achieved this by receiving seven prescriptions from four different doctors. Over the course of a year, the woman ended up obtaining over 3,650 oxycodone pills from 58 different prescribers, from more than 40 pharmacies. This was enough supply to last someone almost five years of daily doses.
Are doctors allowing this to continue on purpose? The paper suggests that doctors don't even suspect their patients of misusing the Medicare system on most occasions. When asked if they thought medication taken in such a high quantity seemed logical, they responded by stating that consuming such amounts of prescription drugs was "medically unnecessary" and "possibly dangerous" to ingest.
Several resolutions have been proposed, but they usually fall under the same general idea of limiting the beneficiary to only one doctor and pharmacy. This idea was met with uncertainty by Medicare representatives, who expressed concern that imposing such limits would hinder the program's usefulness and severely affect those beneficiaries who already have limited access to health care, transportation and resources.
While the problem of Medicare beneficiaries abusing their coverage by fueling addictions or selling drugs
isn't new, it is costing taxpayers substantial amounts of money and it seems to be getting worse. Electronic documents and instant communication between a doctor and the pharmacy could help curb this behavior. Regardless of the method used to track prescriptions, medical staff should start taking a closer look at the patient's prescription drug history and limiting their ability to refill their prescription as necessary.