News Stream

Medicare steps up policing of abusive drug prescribers?

Medical professionals who are frequent prescribers of opiates may face stricter scrutiny from the Centers for Medicare/Medicaid starting in mid-2015, but only if an “abusive” pattern is found beforehand.

The news comes on the heels of several investigations involving providers writing prescriptions for addictive, lethal drugs at an alarmingly high rate.

Most recently, a nurse practitioner, habitually writing prescriptions for opiates and controlled substances at a rate of nearly 30 per day clip, surrendered her license, the New Haven Register found.

The case illuminates a problem that authorities are currently facing concerning improper prescribing practices by licensees.

The April 6 report found that Connecticut nurse practitioner Heather Alfonso wrote out more prescriptions for Exalgo – a highly addictive opioid – than any other Medicare provider in the nation. She was also the seventh highest prescriber in the country for Oxycontin.

Yet, Alfonso was allowed to continue to indiscriminately prescribe lethal medications to thousands of patients for several more years, according to the report, despite the fact that few NPs prescribe Schedule II drugs.

The report points out that neither the Department of Health nor the state medical board track the prescription database. Instead, the database is only examined when there is a complaint.

The Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has put in place regulations set to go into effect in the coming months. These regulations seek to curtail improper prescribing practices. However, the regulations only aim to impose stricter sanctions on providers after there is an “abusive” pattern discovered.

Read the report here.