ProPublica reports on opioid abuses among Medicare beneficiaries, as investigated by the inspector general of Health and Human Services.
- Of the one-third of Medicare beneficiaries in Part D (or roughly 14.4 million people) who filled at least one prescription for an opioid in 2016, some 3.6 million received the painkillers for at least six months.
- Consistent with data released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were wide geographic differences in prescribing patterns. Alabama and Mississippi had the highest proportions of patients taking prescription painkillers — more than 45 percent each — while Hawaii and New York had the lowest — 22 percent or less.
- More than half a million beneficiaries received high doses of opioids for at least three months, meaning they took the equivalent of 12 tablets a day of 10-milligram Vicodin. The figure does not include patients who have cancer or those who are in hospice care, for whom such doses may be appropriate.
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