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Countering Prescription Fraud

NCJ Number
Police Chief Volume: 63 Issue: 3 Dated: (March 1996) Pages: 33-35
K Beary; J P Mudri; L Dorsch
Date Published
3 pages
About one-third of drug abuse problems in the United States can be linked to prescription drugs; legitimately manufactured controlled drugs provide a logical alternative to drug abusers wanting some degree of label confidence and safety while achieving the desired effect.
Drugs involved in prescription fraud include narcotics, stimulants, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, tranquilizers, and other psychoactive substances manufactured for use in legitimate medical treatment. It is estimated that over 231 million prescriptions for controlled drugs, not including hospital dispensing, are written each year. Further, legitimately manufactured controlled drugs account for 13 of the top 20 controlled drugs and about 3 of every 10 drugs mentioned to emergency room personnel. Prescription fraud may occur through a customer who passes a bogus prescription at the pharmacy, a pharmacy technician who changes prescriptions for noncontrolled drugs to more potent controlled drugs in the pharmacy computer, or a pharmacist who dispenses unauthorized refills or alters individual prescriptions. Diversion may also occur at the physician's office where office personnel write unauthorized prescriptions by forging the physician's signature or by telephoning prescriptions into the pharmacy. Congress recognized prescription drug abuse by passing the Harrison Narcotic Act of 1914 which regulated the sale of opiates. The largest commitment, however, was made in 1970 with passage of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. Motivational factors causing health professionals to become involved in the diversion of legitimate drugs include greed, failing medical practice, self- addiction, senility, and rationalization. Progress made in investigating and prosecuting prescription fraud cases is reported, and specialized training needs of law enforcement personnel in this area are discussed. 2 photographs