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Medicaid Docs With A Penchant For Potent Prescriptions

Today, I'm highlighting a must-read story that has nothing to do with health care in Massachusetts.

Emily Ramshaw, writing for the Texas Tribune, by way of Kaiser Health News, reports on Texas doctors who prescribe enormous quantities of antipsychotic drugs to Medicaid patients, many of them children.

Here's the top of her story:

Houston psychiatrist G.K. Ravichandran practices a “bio-psycho-social-spiritual” approach to mental health treatment, relying heavily on clinically controversial brain scans to detect everything from anxiety to marital discord. He also has a strong penchant for prescribing heavy drugs.

Ravichandran wrote Texas Medicaid patients more than 54,000 prescriptions for costly, potent antipsychotics between 2005 and 2009 — more than any other doctor in the state, and a figure other practicing physicians call borderline impossible. The next highest prescribers of antipsychotics include a North Texas music therapist who believes his Peruvian pan flute tunes have therapeutic benefits, and a Beaumont child psychologist reprimanded for continuing to prescribe to a proven drug abuser. Between them, they doled out more than 89,000 prescriptions for antipsychotics in that time period, according to a Texas Tribune review of state Medicaid data.

Their prescriptions make up just a fraction of the total: Over the last five years, Texas physicians wrote Medicaid patients nearly 3.4 million prescriptions for antipsychotics — mind-altering drugs designed to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and severe psychological distress, but proven to have serious side effects in kids. While a small portion of the state’s 3 million Medicaid patients received the drugs, many of the highest-prescribing doctors predominantly treat children, a strong indication that’s where the bulk of these antipsychotics are going.

This program aired on July 16, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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