State puts lid on overprescribing doctors
Pennsylvania has investigated and removed some doctors who were among the top prescribers of painkillers and mental health drugs for Medicaid patients, officials said in a letter made public on Friday.
Five doctors were disqualified from participating in the program; four had their licenses suspended; two were referred to prosecutors for review; and one is under investigation, the state Department of Public Welfare told U.S. Senate investigators.
The state reported its actions in a Feb. 27 letter to Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who has been investigating abuses nationwide of medicines such as the anti-depressant Xanax. Pennsylvania initially provided information about the top 10 prescribers of eight antipsychotic, painkiller or anti-anxiety drugs to Grassley in 2010.
"We are seeing that certain states, including Pennsylvania, are reporting that they or the state medical board has taken action against medical providers, and that's good news," said Jill Gerber, Grassley's spokeswoman.
The state welfare department said it sent intervention letters to 51 other doctors, showing their patients' drug histories. The state said its program encourages doctors to discontinue unnecessary prescriptions, reduce drug quantities or switch to other treatments.
State officials declined to identify any doctors.
"Our administration is dedicated to rooting out all waste, abuse and fraud in our programs and services," spokeswoman Donna Kirker Morgan said in a statement.
"Although the senator's questions are an interesting snapshot of antipsychotic drug utilization in the Medicaid system, the questions do not delve into important facts and backgrounds about patients and their current needs for such drugs and the circumstances for such prescriptions."
Top prescribers continue to dispense many of the drugs at a high cost for taxpayers, the state's response shows. Along with its letter, public welfare reported the top 10 prescribers for eight drugs, showing the number of prescriptions each doctor wrote and the dollar value of them.
One doctor last year gave out 6,950 prescriptions for Xanax — or more than 19 every day — at a cost of nearly $70,500. The year before, another doctor wrote 1,864 prescriptions for Seroquel, an antidepression and schizophrenia drug that can cost up to $12 per tablet. The Seroquel prescriptions cost taxpayers more than $1 million.
The state attorney general's office could not immediately provide details about whether any of the public welfare referrals resulted in prosecution. "We aggressively pursue provider fraud, which diverts limited taxpayer resources from Medicaid recipients with legitimate needs," spokesman Nils Hagen-Frederiksen said.
The state's response to Grassley was made public yesterday when the agency responded to a Right-to-Know Request filed by Ken Kramer, an investigator for Citizens Commission on Human Rights International, a group that investigates and exposes psychiatric abuse.
"It's very good to see Pennsylvania taking action," Kramer, 55, of Clearwater, Fla., said in an email to the Tribune-Review. "There is no debate on this: Patients are overdrugged, Medicaid is overbilled and taxpayers are overburdened -- all caused by the bogus prescribing of psychiatrists."
Add Andrew Conte to your Google+ circles.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Founder of Z&M Cycle Sales in Hempfield killed in Florida motorcycle crash
- Starkey: Tomlin lived in his fears
- Slain St. Clair officer walked into ‘worst nightmare’ for police
- Increasing player salaries pinch financial flexibility of Pirates
- 2,200 union employees of ATI lose coverage
- 7 percent in Allegheny County allowed to carry concealed gun
- Steelers receiver Wheaton takes advantage of opportunity in breakout game
- Penguins’ reshuffled top line of Crosby, Dupuis, Kunitz looks familiar
- U.S. Marine found guilty of killing transgender Filipino
- Film session: Long shots dotted Steelers’ passing game
- No. 11 Purdue presents tall order for Pitt