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Medicare said putting seniors at risk

Just when you think medical malpractice and personal injury might just be stabilizing, something other than an errant scalpel intrudes in the picture in a big way.

The latest wrinkle in the already challenging realm of medical malpractice, and/or personal injury falls in the lap of good old Medicare. Reports have suggested that the giant healthcare provider has not looked hard enough at the safety of certain prescription drugs that could be putting our vulnerable seniors at risk.

An analysis held over four years of Medicare prescription indicates that some doctors across the country prescribe large quantities of drugs that are potentially harmful, disorienting or addictive.

The examples are legion and should be of concern to folks, especially seniors, not only in Connecticut but across the nation. In 2010 doctors wrote more than 500,000 prescriptions for the muscle relaxant known as Soma to seniors. This drug is on the American Geriatrics Society's list of drugs seniors should avoid.

As one might expect, there is a turf battle afoot and it?EUR(TM)s all about the blame game. Officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) argue the job of monitoring the avalanche of pills falls to the private health plans that administer the program, not the government.

But detractors of the Medicare line of defense are quick to point out that they hold all the important data in their computers and are in the best position to take steps to sanction unsafe providers.

The hard fact for medical malpractice attorneys is that some doctors prescribe improperly. Research also shows that doctors often don?EUR(TM)t keep up with the latest studies and drug warnings.

Incredibly, doctors barred by state Medicaid programs for their errant prescribing remain able to give out the same drugs under Medicare. To make matters darker, practitioners who have been criminally charged or convicted for problem prescribing, or who have been disciplined by state medical boards, can still write those problem scripts.

When a certain elderly patient developed a urinary tract infection that went untreated, she was given a painkiller in doses that were excessive and dangerous for her condition, court testimony shows. Within a month, she died.

This type of misfortune is the special province of the savvy and aggressive attorney that focuses on medical malpractice.

Source:  chron.com, "Medicare has failed to monitor safety of prescription drugs, putting seniors at risk" Tracy Weber, Charles Ornstein and Jennifer LaFleur, May. 16, 2013

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