The forging of prescriptions is both a criminal offense and a serious, growing problem. The Center for Problem-Oriented Policing defines prescription drug fraud as, “the illegal acquisition of prescription drugs for personal use or profit.” Through a number of different ways, prescription drug addicts attempt to avoid outright stealing pills or purchasing them from street dealers. Still, such fraud is highly dangerous, illegal and tells of a much deeper and more serious underlying problem.
What is Prescription Fraud?
Although the unlawful misuse of controlled prescription drugs is an obvious serious issue amongst substance abusers themselves, the unethical practices of some pharmacists and doctors have contributed to the issue of prescription fraud.One generally forges prescriptions (obtains them fraudulently) for two basic reasons:
1. In order that the individual may have the prescriptions for himself/herself (in the case of addiction, dependency, self-medicating or abuse), or
2. So the individual may sell them for profit and personal gain.
How Are Prescriptions Forged or Fraudulently Obtained?
Fraudulently obtaining a prescription has become more difficult in recent years, with electronic prescription drug monitoring programs and tracking systems in place, and with law enforcement cracking down. Despite such measures, the issue of forged prescriptions as well as fraudulent and illegally obtained pharmaceutical drugs continues to present itself on a number of fronts:
- Pharmacists have been seen to commit Medicaid fraud, a practice in which generic drugs are substituted for brand name drugs, pills are short-counted or prescriptions are refilled without a doctor’s note; Medicaid is then overbilled and, in some cases, these drugs get into the wrong hands.
- Healthcare workers and pharmacists, who have regular access to prescription drugs like Vicodin, OxyContin, Morphine, etc., sometimes steal these medications – whether for personal use or distribution, the motive may vary.
- Patients who consult a number of different doctors (a process referred to as “doctor shopping”) to obtain multiple prescriptions, citing health concerns such as mental disorders, migraines, dental pain ,etc.
- Illegally purchasing prescription drugs on the Internet.
- Forging an actual doctor’s note by increasing the allowed pill count number on the prescription.
- Theft of blank prescription notes/forms.
- Impersonation of doctors or nurses by “calling in” a prescription.
- Theft of prescription drugs from friends, family or loved ones.
Pharmacists and other healthcare providers are urged to be highly vigilant with patients who are suspicious or ask for multiple refills of a prescription drug to prevent fraud. Such risk and dangerous practices further the problem of pharmaceutical drug abuse.
Legal Consequences of Forging a Prescription
The legal consequences of forging a prescription or illegally obtaining a pharmaceutical drug by fraud varies from state to state. Depending on state-specific laws and case circumstances, sentencing can range from one year in jail up to 20 years in state prison.
When someone forges a prescription they can be convicted of a crime. This is if it is proven that they gave a prescription for any narcotic drug and the signature on the prescription was fake, forged or in any way altered from its original state. Forging documents of any kind (including money orders, trading stamps, cashier’s checks or any document used to access another person’s bank account) is a serious offense and one can be charged with a misdemeanor or even a felony.
Forgery and fraudulent activity of any kind are desperate acts that many addicts resort to avoid intense and painful withdrawal symptoms. Drug seeking behavior has been seen to be criminal, violent and dangerous. Although many of such individuals are incarcerated for their actions, some are afforded the opportunity to attend mandatory rehabilitative sentencing for their substance abuse problem.