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While the debate around health care brings out political rancor in Washington, there is a rare issue that unites rather than divides both political parties: combating the problem of prescription drug abuse and fraud.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declared prescription drug abuse a national epidemic that costs 20,000 lives and $72 billion dollars a year. In addition, the CDC finds that the rate of prescription drug overdose deaths has more than tripled in the United States since 1990, and in 2011 prescription drugs surpassed automobile accidents as the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States, with 37,485 dead.
Fortunately, the Medicare Part D Patient Safety and Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2013 (HR 3392) sponsored by Reps. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., and Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., would go a long way toward limiting prescription drug abuse and increasing patient safety.
HR 3392 recognizes that unlike Medicaid, the Medicare prescription drug benefit, Part D, does not currently include a “safe pharmacy” provision. This legislation would create pharmacies in Medicare Part D that can safely dispense controlled substances for high-risk individuals and it would help prevent “drugstore shopping.”
The bill also allows plans to suspend claims that could be considered fraudulent just as is allowed in the rest of Medicare. Health plans are often forced to pay for prescription drug claims even when they detect fraud because of a recent federal law that forces Medicare plans to pay drugstores twice as fast as they pay hospitals and doctors.
Bilirakis and Luján should be commended for taking an important step toward decreasing drug abuse and fraud in our health care system. By preventing improperly prescribed drugs from crossing the pharmacy counter into the wrong hands, we can win an important battle in this fight.
Mark Merritt is president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association.