Medicare patients in 2006-07 likely received more than $112 million worth of expired prescription drugs or drugs that have been pulled from the market for health or safety reasons, according to a Department of Health and Human Services watchdog report.
The department’s inspector general found the so-called terminated drugs after inspecting two years’ worth of data that private prescription drug plans and Medicare Advantage plans are required to submit to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency that administrators for the health insurance plan for seniors.
The terminated drugs “could be weak, ineffective, or detrimental to beneficiaries’ health,” the watchdog report said. Because federal regulations do not currently prohibit coverage of terminated drugs, the inspector general recommended that CMS issue new regulations to ban them and to publish a list of the drugs on its website.
Although the cost of the 2,967 terminated drugs the watchdog found accounted for less than one-tenth of a percent of overall Medicare drug costs, CMS disputed the report’s findings and recommendations.
“We rarely see evidence to indicate that pharmacies are dispensing outdated drugs to Medicare beneficiaries,” CMS wrote in a response attached to the report. Further, CMS said that the inspector general’s data source for terminated drugs is likely flawed since the dates “are not infrequently subject to change, in certain cases by more than a year.”
The inspector general, however, stood by its recommendation for new regulations saying it examined the same data that CMS provides to states to use in determining whether drugs are eligible for reimbursement.
FAST FACT: Medicare prescription drug providers submitted $115 billion in drug costs to CMS in calendar years 2006-07.
Following are other new watchdog reports released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), various federal Offices of Inspector General (OIG), and other government entities. Congressional Research Service reports, which prepared for lawmakers but not made public, were provided by the Center for Democracy and Technology.
- With hundreds of nuclear power reactors expected to be constructed globally in coming years, U.S. nuclear exports could be at a disadvantage due to the lack of an interagency, government strategy for the nuclear industry. (GAO)
- Pennsylvania’s stimulus-funded $252 million weatherization program should allocate more funds to low-income, high-energy users, and ensure local agencies using funds comply with regulations. (OIG)
- About $15 million in FEMA funds given to the Broward County School District in Ft. Lauderdale after Hurricane Katrina may not have been spent properly. (OIG)