Date:May 11, June 19, 24, 25, 28, July 1, 15, 2013
We found that Medicare's massive prescription drug program, in its drive to get drugs into patients' hands, failed to properly monitor safety. An analysis of four years of Medicare prescription records shows that some doctors and other health professionals across the country prescribed large quantities of drugs that were potentially harmful, disorienting or addictive. One Florida doctor gave hundreds of dementia patients antipsychotic medications despite a black box warning that it increases the risk of death. And more than half the top prescribers of Oxycontin, the most-abused painkiller, faced criminal charges or discipline against their professional licenses, or had been terminated from state Medicaid programs -- but retained their ability to prescribe in Medicare. Federal officials have done little to detect or deter these hazardous prescribing patterns. A subsequent story found that many of the top prescribers of highly advertised drugs within Medicare's drug program had financial ties to the makers of the drugs. We also built an interactive news application that lets consumers to look up their physicians and see how their prescribing patterns compare to those of their peers. The news application, which has had more than 800,000 page views, allows users to personalize the story for themselves and see their personal stake in this national story.