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Screening for alcohol abuse; ketamine for mental health; $234M in fraudulent billing - Morning Medical Update


The top news stories in medicine today.

Doctor morning desk: © Alena Kryazheva –

© Alena Kryazheva –

Potential screening in primary care

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has published a draft research plan on “Unhealthy Alcohol Use in Adolescents and Adults: Screening and Behavioral Counseling Interventions.” There are five key questions for review, including whether primary care screening for unhealthy alcohol use reduces alcohol use or improves other risky behaviors. A public comment period has opened until Feb. 28.

‘Wild West’ of mental health

Some patients are reporting good results using ketamine to treat mental health issues including obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression and anxiety. Up to 750 clinics have started across the nation to administer the anesthetic for off-brand purposes, including mental health treatment. It is a growing multibillion-dollar segment of health care – but with little regulation. KFF reports.

That’s a lotta fraud

A California man was sentenced to 10 years in prison for billing Medicare for $234 million, give or take, for various lab tests, despite a decades-long exclusion from the federal program. Imran Shams, 65, was convicted of Medicare fraud in 1990 in New York and Medicaid fraud in 2001 in California. In November 2017, Shams pleaded guilty to charges involving health care kickbacks, but was back in fraudulent business the next year, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General.

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