WASHINGTON, DC – Last year, the Ohio Medicaid program spent more than $918 million on prescription medicines. While most prescription pain medicines are used as prescribed, some criminals and addicts are defrauding the Medicaid system by attempting to acquire multiple prescriptions and filling them at multiple pharmacies—undermining taxpayers and efforts to combat prescription drug abuse. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced a plan today to combat prescription drug abuse and diversion by targeting doctor-shopping and pharmacy-hopping.
“We can save taxpayer dollars—and countless lives—by stopping criminals and addicts from illegally using Medicaid cards to fill false prescriptions for addictive drugs,” Brown said. “As the death toll from prescription drug overdoses has tripled in our state, we increasingly see the need for a national, coordinated effort to combat this epidemic. That’s why I’m working to establish a Medicaid lock-in program to help stop those enrollees who have been misusing their Medicaid cards from continuing this costly and dangerous practice. Ohio taxpayers will not finance criminal activity or feed drug addiction.”
Brown announced plans to reintroduce the Stop Trafficking of Pills (STOP) Act today, legislation that would crack down on the fraudulent use of Medicaid cards to obtain and fill prescriptions for addictive pain medications. The bill would create a “Medicaid lock-in program”—which would limit the number of doctors and pharmacies visited by convicted prescription drug abusers or high-risk prescription drug users—and prevent the abuse, diversion, or re-sale of prescription drugs.
A General Accounting Office report outlined how Medicaid fraud is contributing to the prescription drug epidemic. In the report, the GAO found:
- About 65,000 cases in which Medicaid beneficiaries visited six or more doctors and up to 46 different pharmacies to acquire prescriptions — a practice known as "doctor-shopping" that allows purchasers to exceed the legal limit of drugs.
- Sixty-five doctors or pharmacists writing or filling prescriptions after being banned from Medicaid, some for illegally selling such drugs.
- About 1,800 prescriptions written for dead patients and 1,200 prescriptions "written" by dead physicians.
Following the call, Brown released a map of sites available throughout the state where Ohioans can safely dispose of unwanted prescription drugs. Last month, during National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, Ohioans safely disposed of more than 16 tons – more than 32,300 pounds – of unused prescription drugs, up from 13 tons last year, according to the Attorney General’s office.
Prescription drug abuse is an epidemic in Ohio. Prescription pain medications, such as oxycodone, morphine, and methadone, are largely responsible for increasing numbers of overdoses and deaths in Ohio. Medicaid lock-in programs can be effective by limiting the doctors from which a high-risk patient can receive prescriptions, as well as the pharmacies from which the patient can obtain medicines. This enables the kind of close monitoring needed to prevent high-risk patients from personally abusing or selling opioids.