What We're Reading: More Medicare Doctors Are High-Cost Prescribers

What we're reading, November 17, 2016: more Medicare doctors are considered high-dollar prescribers; the surgeon general releases a report tackling substance abuse and misuse; and the teen birth rate hasn't dropped as much in rural counties.

More Medicare doctors are prescribing more expensive drugs. A new investigation from ProPublica found that while only 41 Medicare doctors prescribed more than $5 million worth of medications in 2011, that number skyrocketed to 514 in 2015. The biggest reason for the huge jump was rising overall drug costs, and specifically, the expensive hepatitis C treatments. The physicians who topped the list typically prescribed Harvoni or Sovaldi, or drugs to treat cancer, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, MBA, released a report on Thursday tackling the issue of substance abuse and misuse. In an interview with NPR, Murthy discussed the prevalence of substance abuse in the United States, the economic impact of substance abuse disorders, and curbing the addiction epidemic. He emphasized that fighting the addiction epidemic starts with talking to children.

Although the teen birth rate steadily dropped from 2007 to 2015, the decrease was a lot slower in small towns. According to the Los Angeles Times, the teen birth rate in rural counties was 63% higher compared with counties with large cities. In large urban counties, the teen birth rate is 50% lower than it was in 2007. Meanwhile, rural counties, which had the highest teen birth rate in 2007, reported a decrease of 37% over the 8 years.