(NaturalNews) In what officials are now claiming was a computer error, the US government's Medicare program illegally spent more than $3 million in 2007 and 2008 on erectile dysfunction (ED) drugs like Pfizer Inc.'s Viagra, according to a recent report issued by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The spending violates a 2007 ban on ED drug coverage for seniors and the disabled under Medicare Part D.
According to a report issued by the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG), the US government paid $3.1 million in claims for ED drugs because of a software glitch that failed to exclude such drugs under new guidelines. George Reeb, acting deputy inspector general for audit services at HHS, says Medicare "should not have covered these drugs," and that the program need to figure out a way to recuperate some or of all of the illegal payments.
OIG has also been tasked with "strengthen[ing] internal controls to help ensure that drugs covered by Medicare Part D comply with federal requirements," and working more more closely with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to maintain accurate lists of covered drugs so that such illegal spending does not occur in the future.
The Medicare system is largely fraught with wasteful spending and fraud. A 2008 Senate committee report, for instance, revealed that between 2000 and 2007, the Medicare system issued about $92 million in payment for procedures and devices allegedly ordered by doctors, but that turned out not to even be alive (http://www.naturalnews.com/028755_Medicare_d...). And for years, drug companies deliberately marked up drug and procedural prices for Medicare because the government system is so bureaucratically convoluted that it was easy to slip it by (http://www.naturalnews.com/022835.html).
Reports indicate that Medicare issued payments for ED drugs in 2009 and 2010 as well, but figures for those years have yet to be determined.