(NaturalNews) A state health agency in Texas is investigating dozens of healthcare providers who gave out prescriptions for large amounts of powerful psychiatric drugs, some of them to children, after red flags were raised about the medications by a U.S. senator.
According to the Dallas Star-Telegram, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) has already referred three of the providers to the state attorney general for possible prosecution, according to health commissioner Thomas Suehs.
The commissioner, in a February letter to Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, also said Texas has referred an additional provider to the state's private Medicaid claims processor for "further recoupment" following an investigation by Grassley's office in 2010 regarding the use of addictive mental health drugs subject to fraud and abuse.
Suehs said some of the providers in question have been forbidden to participate in the Texas Medicaid program, "including one convicted in a criminal case and another accused of inappropriate billing and coding of hours related to patient services," the paper said.
State review underway
Two providers have been referred to licensing boards for further action, and all of them were sent what the HHSC called educational letters. None of the providers were identified by the state, however.
The actions were taken in response to initial inquiries from Grassley's office. In response, Texas health officials listed the top 10 prescribers of eight psychotropic and pain meds, though a department spokeswoman, Stephanie Goodman, told the paper the state had already begun a review of psychotropic medications.
In his letter to Grassley, Suehs detailed what the department has done to uncover, but not necessarily combat, overprescribing. That's because "the presence of this high rate may not necessarily be indicative of fraud or abuse on its own," he wrote, though high prescription rates could indicate a problem.
That said, Suehs explained that investigations are not opened based simply on the overall number or volume of prescriptions. Rather, they "arise from the receipt of a specific allegation of fraud, provider self reports and computer data matches."
In its own investigation of the issue in December 2010, the Star-Telegram said it used prescription numbers to identify the physicians and to sort and count their prescription totals by drug type.
"The newspaper's analysis also looked at other mental-health drugs that have cost taxpayers about $1.3 billion over five years," said the report. "The analysis found that in two years, the 72 Medicaid providers identified by the state for writing the most prescriptions handed out 186,992, averaging 2,597 each."
One physician identified by the paper - G.K. Ravichandran of the Shamrock Psychiatric Clinic in Houston - wrote 27,000 prescriptions for Xanax, an anti-anxiety drug that http://www.drugs.com, Drugs.com said.
Anti-depressants - known collectively as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs - are themselves dangerous, even when they're not being over-prescribed. Studies have linked them to thickening of the arteries, which can lead to heart problems and stroke.
Paxil, Prozac blamed for deaths, bizarre behavior
In December, a Canadian judge http://www.infowars.com, especially among children, could even have fatal consequences.
The judge made his ruling in a case involving whether a 15-year-old boy who killed a friend by stabbing him with a nine-inch kitchen knife could stand trial as an adult. In his decision, Justice Robert Heinrichs of the Manitoba Justice Department, said the youth "had become irritable, restless, agitated, aggressive and unclear in his thinking," while taking the antidepressant Prozac.
"It was while in that state he overreacted in an impulsive, explosive and violent way," Heinrichs said. "Now that his body and mind are free and clear of any effects of Prozac, he is simply not the same youth in behavior or character."
That ruling followed a similar one in 2001 by a Wyoming jury that decided the antidepressant drug Paxil had caused a man to murder his wife, daughter, and granddaughter, after which he killed himself.