State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli
By Forum Staff
Some individuals on Medicaid receiving treatment for opioid use disorder might have been prescribed unnecessary or dangerous opioid medications outside of their treatment programs, according to an audit issued on Monday by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.
The report noted that the State maintains a database to monitor prescription drug use, known as the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing, which contains records of all controlled substances that were dispensed in the state and reported by a pharmacy or dispenser. I-STOP is a tool to help prescribers determine the most appropriate prescriptions for an individual. Opioid treatment programs are not required to disclose the medications they provide to patients, but should check for a patient’s other opioid use on I-STOP, and in certain instances they are required to do so.
If a treatment program becomes aware of outside prescriptions, the program can ask for patient consent to consult with other health care providers on the patient’s medical condition and situation. Treatment programs are required to obtain consent from the patient prior to sharing treatment information with other practitioners.
DiNapoli’s auditors examined State Department of Health records from Oct. 1, 2013 to Sept. 30, 2017 and identified 18,786 Medicaid recipients who received 208,198 prescriptions for opioids through the Medicaid program while also receiving opioids, usually methadone, as part of a treatment program for opioid use disorder.
Auditors found 33 percent of Medicaid recipients in treatment programs received prescription opioids outside of their program. Three percent of these individuals received medical care for an overdose within 30 days of obtaining a prescription. Specifically, 493 needed medical care as a result of 691 opioid or narcotic overdoses that occurred within a month of receiving a prescription opioid. Twelve of those individuals died during the time of their medical care involving the overdose.
Comptroller’s Office officials reviewed the medical records for a sample of 25 Medicaid recipients from three treatment programs. Auditors also analyzed Medicaid data and determined these individuals received 1,065 Medicaid opioid prescriptions while they were in treatment for opioid abuse. According to the audit, on average, these recipients were in their treatment programs for nearly 3.5 years. However, auditors found treatment programs did not check I-STOP for every recipient. For the 25 individuals, I-STOP was checked only 18 times. Auditors also found that I-STOP was not checked every time a medication-assisted opioid was dispensed for take-home use, as required by State law.
Auditors found that 13 of the 25 recipients were asked at least once during treatment to sign a consent form to coordinate care with the recipient’s opioid prescriber. However, three of the 13 recipients declined to sign the form. Treatment programs were aware of 566 of the 1,065 opioid prescriptions (53 percent) provided to the 25 patients. Auditors found that consent to coordinate care was obtained regarding just 85 of the 1,065 prescriptions (8 percent) and care coordination occurred for only 59 of the 1,065 prescriptions (6 percent).
“The State Department of Health should take steps to help treatment programs and health care providers work together to prevent overdoses that could lead to hospitalizations or death,” DiNapoli said.