Pharmacists warned over fake scripts

prescription pad doctor

When faced with a recent deluge of fraudulent scripts for fentanyl and OxyContin, the majority of pharmacists did not comply with legislative and professionals responsibilities, says DHHS

The Victorian Pharmacy Authority has shared information from Medicines and Poisons Regulation, Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), about fraudulent prescriptions.

A number of recent cases in Victoria, involving significant numbers of fraudulent prescriptions, has revealed instances where some pharmacists complied with their legislative and professional responsibilities – but the majority of pharmacists did not, says DHHS.

In one case, fraudulent computer-generated prescriptions and handwritten prescriptions (for five, 10 or 15 patches) for higher strength fentanyl patches were presented at 60 different pharmacies.

Fewer than half of those pharmacies chose not to dispense the prescriptions (or to supply only a single patch) because they complied with regulation 51(2) of the Drugs Poisons and Controlled Substances Regulations 2017 or because they did not have stock of the prescribed medication.

Regulation 51(2) states that a pharmacist must not sell or supply a Schedule 8 poison in a quantity that allows for more than 2 days’ treatment unless—

        (a)     the prescription is handwritten and—

              (i)     the pharmacist is familiar with the purported prescriber’s handwriting; and

              (ii)     the writing on the prescription is comparable to the usual writing of the purported prescriber; or

        (b)     the pharmacist has taken all reasonable steps to verify that the prescription was written by the purported prescriber.

All of the fraudulent prescriptions were purportedly issued by medical practitioners in NSW, so it is “highly unlikely” that the pharmacists located in Victoria would have had any familiarity with the handwriting of the purported prescribers, said DHHS in the VPA Circular.

Seeking photo identification from the patient or agent is likely to deter an offender or ensure that the offender can be identified to police, says DHHS.

In a second instance involving OxyContin 40mg tablets, approximately 90 fraudulent computer-generated prescriptions were presented at 20 different pharmacies but only a handful were not dispensed.

Seven of the pharmacies dispensed the fraudulent prescriptions on between seven and 15 occasions.

The intent of regulation 51(2) is to make it difficult for offenders to obtain Schedule 8 poisons by presenting fraudulent prescriptions, says DHHS.

The department warns that a pharmacist is not excused from the requirements of regulation 51(2) for any of the following reasons:

  • The pharmacist was not suspicious.
  • The prescriber could not be contacted.
  • It was late.
  • The prescription was a computer-generated prescription.
  • The handwriting was similar to an earlier prescription (which was also fraudulent).
  • SafeScript showed that another pharmacy had dispensed the same medication for the patient. A dispensing event on the SafeScript database shows only that an earlier prescription was dispensed; it does not provide any proof that a subsequent prescription is not fraudulent.
  • PBS online indicated that the PBS would subsidise the cost of the medication. Even some PBS Authority prescriptions with genuine telephone approval numbers have been found to be fraudulent.

When a pharmacist feels obliged to supply up to 2-days’ supply of a medication—despite being unable to confirm that a prescription is genuine—seeking photo identification from the patient or agent is likely to deter an offender or ensure that the offender can be identified to police, says DHHS.

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