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Study reveals medical malpractice in Medicare painkiller prescriptions

An analysis of how patients are prescribed medications under a Medicare prescription drug plan has revealed concerns about how prescription painkillers and other medications are prescribed by doctors. The ProPublica study found that because of a lack of oversight as to how these drugs are prescribed, seniors and disabled patients may be at risk of serious health consequences as a result of drug overprescription by their physicians.

Known as Medicare Part D, the prescription drug plan studied by ProPublica allows patients to get their medications through stand-alone drug plans or through Medicare HMOs. The plan has proved popular with seniors and other patients, allowing those who might not otherwise have access to these medications to get their prescriptions at far lower cost than initial forecasts by Congress.

But according to ProPublica, a lack of oversight into the prescribing of opioid painkillers and other dangerous drugs may put some patients at risk of a potentially fatal overdose or other side effects. The study uncovered cases of medical malpractice in which painkillers were prescribed at excessive doses, placing patients in danger.

In other cases, the study found that disabled patients were being prescribed drugs that could place their health in danger. Because of their limited ability to respond to changes in their health caused by these medications, disabled patients were especially vulnerable to improper prescribing practices on the part of their doctor.