Consumer Health Digest #08-28
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
July 8, 2008
Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., and cosponsored by NCAHF and Quackwatch. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making.
Congressional investigation uncovers extensive Medicare fraud. Senate investigators have uncovered a substantial volume of durable medical equipment (DME) claims that were made by pretending that deceased physicians had prescribed the equipment. [Medicare vulnerabilities: Payments for claims tied to deceased doctors. U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, July 9, 2008] The investigators found:
- From 2000 through 2007, Medicare paid approximately 478,500 claims that contained the Unique Physician Identification Numbers (UPINs) of deceased doctors.
- The number of claims paid could be as high as 570,000.
- The payments totaled well over $76.6 million and might exceed $92 million.
- The claims contained the UPINs of between 16,500 and 18,200 deceased physicians.
- At least 51,500 claims, valued at roughly $4 million, contained UPINs of doctors who died ten or more years before the service date on the claim forms.
- In May 2008, the UPIN registry still contained active UPINs for between 2,000 to 2,900 deceased physicians.
The subcommittee has posted additional information from government officials who testified at a hearing on this subject. The opening statement of subcommittee chairman Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) notes that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services was alerted to the UPIN problem in 2001 but failed to take appropriate action. Levin called the failure "inexcusable."
Study demonstrates that rogue pharmacies are widespread. A study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University has found that most Web sites that offer narcotics and other controlled drugs by mail do not require a proper prescription. ["You've got drugs!" V: Prescription drug pushers on the Internet. CASA White Paper, July 2008] Referring to the Internet as a "pharmaceutical candy store," the investigators reported:
- They found 206 sites that advertised the drugs and 159 sites that offered the drugs for sale.
- Of the latter, 85% required no prescription from a patient’s physician and half of the rest merely ask that a prescription be faxed—increasing the risk of multiple use of one prescription or other fraud.
- No controls block the sale of these drugs to children.
PharmacyChecker.com evaluates services and drug prices at reliable online pharmacies.
Virginia paying big bucks for "attachment therapy." The Virginian-Pilot has published a detailed investigative report about B. Bryan Post, who has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from government agencies for administering "attachment therapy" and other controversial services to disturbed children. [Sizemore B. Controversy trails 'attachment' therapist who runs Chesapeake center. The Virginian-Pilot, July 6, 2008] Post, who refers to himself as "Dr. Post," does business as the the Post Institute for Family Centered Therapy in Chesapeake, Virginia, which his Web site describes as "an intensive in-home counseling service, is committed to providing therapeutically nurturing support to children and their families." He also operates a group home and a school in Chesapeake. He has accredited bachelor and master degrees, but his "Ph.D." was obtained from "Columbus University," a diploma mill that was not accredited by the U.S. Department of Education or approved by the State of Oklahoma. In 2007, the Oklahoma State Board of Licensed Social Workers obtained a consent order under which Post agreed to modify the advertising of his credentials. The agreement states that he must disclose this fact in any Web site flyer, resumé, business card, or telephone book in which he refers to himself as "Dr." or Ph.D." Post is not licensed in Virginia, but got around the law by providing services through a licensed agency. His main web site has a disclaimer on one page but fails to include it throughout the rest of the site where he refers to himself as "Ph.D." or "Dr." Attachment therapy is a coercive treatment that critics regard as child abuse. [Maloney S-B. Be wary of attachment therapy. Quackwatch, July 24, 2003]
This page was posted on July 9, 2008.