Prescription Fraud

Just as quickly as prescription drug abuse has become a problem, so has prescription fraud. This article contains information on the growing problem of pain killer prescription fraud, how to identify prescription fraud, and tips on preventing prescription fraud.


Prescription drug abuse is one of the fastest growing forms of drug abuse in the United States. Close to 33% of drug abuse is prescription drug abuse. Prescription drugs are widely used because they are legal, and many assume that it makes them safer. However, addictions to prescription drugs are not safer than addictions to many illicit drugs. Prescription medication can cause tolerance and withdrawal, and have severe consequences.

Another reason that prescription drug abuse is gaining in popularity has to do with the fact that it is relatively easy to engage in prescription fraud to obtain more drugs.

Fraudulent prescriptions

There are many different ways for patients to get fraudulent prescriptions. Here are some of the more common ways that people attempt to commit prescription fraud:

  • Stolen prescription pads. Some patients actually steal the prescription pads from a doctor’s office. With these pads, it is possible to write different prescriptions for fictional patients (or even real ones) that can be used at different pharmacies.
  • Custom prescription pads. In some cases, patients will have prescription pads made to order. They will use the name of a legitimate doctor, but include a different phone number. That way, when the pharmacy calls to confirm the prescription they can run interference.
  • Calling in own prescriptions. This is a variation on a theme similar to custom pads. A patient may call in, posing as a doctor, and then leave his or her own callback number.
  • Altering the prescription. Some patients will alter a legitimate prescription so that they can get more doses, or so that they can get more refills.

Patients may use the drugs themselves, or get more to sell. There is a booming black market for some prescription drugs, and some pills go for between $10 and $75 apiece, depending on what it is. Some of those that perpetrate prescription fraud don’t actually use all the drugs themselves; instead they make extra money by selling the drugs.

Identifying prescription fraud

Whether or are a pharmacist or a concerned friend or relative, it is important to be on the look out for prescription fraud. Here are some clues, for a pharmacist, that you might know someone who is participating in prescription fraud:

  • One doctor seems to be writing more prescriptions than is average for the area.
  • A patient may be returning rather frequently to the pharmacy.
  • One patient seems to be presenting prescriptions written for a number of other people.
  • Conflicting drug prescriptions may be written at the same time.
  • Many people, who don’t normally frequent your pharmacy, suddenly show up to get new prescriptions.

If you are concerned about a friend or relative, here are some indications that he or she may be involved with prescription fraud:

  • Large quantities of medications.
  • Empty bill bottles in large amounts.
  • Distracted.
  • Shows signs associated with drug abuse.
  • Concerned about money.
  • Is constantly meeting “new friends.” (Could be going to sell drugs.)

It is important to address prescription fraud. Prescription drugs, when not used properly under the direction of a physician, can be quite dangerous. Indeed, 43% of drug overdoses treated in emergency rooms are the result of prescription drug use, according to the Center for Substance Abuses Prevention. This means that prescription drug abuse is a serious problem that can be made worse by prescription fraud.

Preventing prescription fraud

Different states are taking measures to prevent prescription fraud. Some states have databases that track prescriptions. This is helpful, since many of those involved in prescription fraud go to different pharmacies. Since many pharmacies don’t check with each other, and since there is no database, some patients can get a large number of medications. A database that tracks prescriptions could help with this.

Other states have regulations that do not allow refills before a certain amount of time is up. That way, patients cannot come back in two weeks asking for a refill on a prescription that is supposed to last a month. This can be a great deterrent.

It is important to try and prevent prescription fraud. It endangers health, and even drives up health care costs for everyone else.


Related Article: Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse >>