Most pharmacists are upstanding people, devoted to their work. Customers feel at home with them and rely on their advice concerning all sorts of medical issues from bug bites to flu symptoms. However, some have been cited for questionable practices, especially those involving the dispensing of painkillers.
The truth is that while most pharmacists are focused on the services they provide to the public, those who are less than honest are also well positioned to perpetrate illegal schemes built around the issuance of prescription drugs.
A case in point
In 2014, members of the American Academy of Family Physicians expressed concern about the escalating problem of prescription abuse. In a settlement with the DEA that year, The Walgreen Company paid $80 million in civil penalties based on the pharmacy’s illicit practices regarding the dispensing of narcotics. Furthermore, Walgreen’s pharmacists were filling prescriptions written by clinicians who were listed as “problematic.”
The dispensing of false or unnecessary prescription drugs is among the most common healthcare provider fraud schemes. It ranks right up there with illegal acts such as billing for medical services that patients never received, incorrect reporting of procedures and overutilization of services.
Some perpetrators will make pen-and-ink alterations to a paper prescription. They will even steal prescription pads and forge both the prescription and the signature of the provider. It is also very easy for a pharmacist to steal quantities of painkillers from inventory and use the computer to submit false claims to insurance companies. The computer conveniently supplies the records from which random patient names and associated insurance policy numbers are taken.
Shutting down pill mills
CVS is another pharmacy chain that the DEA investigated for the filling of suspicious painkiller prescriptions. Two CVS locations in Florida had to close down, and the company had to pay $22 million in damages.
Given the rampant opioid problems the country faces, investigations involving the fraudulent dispensing of controlled substances is becoming more commonplace. This can result in serious legal and professional consequences for charged pharmacists, so it is wise to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney for protection of rights and a reduction in penalties.