A June 11, 2019 indictment in Arizona charged 11 people with prescription fraud, accusing them of allegedly stealing the identities of health care workers to write fake prescriptions. The investigation started in 2018 and ended with the state’s Attorney General’s Office identifying 36 separate transactions involving fraudulent prescriptions for opioids.
Currently, under Arizona state law, people who falsify information to get prescription drugs may find themselves charged with prescription fraud. However, studies show those addicted to opioids continue to commit this fraud to get drugs. A new law recently went into effect that may help curb this type of fraud.
Prescription fraud is the acquisition of prescription drugs by illegal means for personal use or to sell or distribute. Forging prescriptions, doctor shopping and altering prescriptions are all considered fraud. Some people may even use computers to create fake prescriptions or go so far as to impersonate medical staff to call in orders.
A report put out by the governor’s office stated that in 2016, nearly 1,000 Arizonans had at least four prescriptions from four different doctors. Now with a population of over 7 million that seems minuscule. However, in the same year, doctors wrote prescriptions for more than 430 million opioid pills. This amount would provide every person in the state with a two-and-a-half-week supply. Fraud may attribute to some of those numbers.
Electronic prescribing of controlled substances (EPCS)
Beginning Jan. 1, 2020, doctors must now electronically prescribe any Schedule II controlled substance that is an opioid. This requirement amends the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act, which the governor signed in 2018. The new amendment aims to reduce prescription fraud and prevent doctor shopping by those addicted to opioids.
Currently, under A.R.S. 13-3406, a person who unlawfully gains access to prescription-only drugs without a valid prescription from a licensed medical professional may have a Class 6 felony brought against him or her. In addition, prescription fraud may include a federal charge.