More than 700 doctors nationwide wrote prescriptions for elderly and disabled patients in highly questionable and potentially harmful ways, according to a critical report of Medicare’s drug program released Thursday. ProPublica said the review by the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services flags those doctors as “very extreme” in their prescribing and says that Medicare should do more to investigate or stop them.
The study mirrors a recent ProPublica investigation that found that Medicare had not protected patients from doctors and other health-care professionals prescribing large quantities of potentially harmful, disorienting or addictive drugs. The report focused on the prescribing by nearly 87,000 general-care physicians in urban and suburban areas in 2009. The review found more than 2,200 doctors whose records stood out in one of several areas: prescriptions per patient, brand-name drugs, painkillers and other addictive drugs, or the number of pharmacies that dispensed their orders. Of those, 736 were flagged as “extreme outliers.”