Heroin: Pharmacists see first hand prescription drug fraud effects
By John Joyce
Published in News on June 29, 2014 4:00 PM
Pharmacists have learned to read the signs.
A man comes in to have a prescription for pain medication filled.
Something doesn’t seem right — his symptoms seem exaggerated.
With just a few phone calls, the pharmacist discovers the same prescription has been filled three times in recent weeks at other area pharmacies.
Prescription pill fraud, theft and abuse are rampant.
“They will come here one day, they were at another pharmacy a week ago, and three weeks ago they were somewhere else,” said Chip Ellison, Coors Pharmacy owner and registered pharmacist.
“It’s real prevalent,” he said.
Ellison said the abusers range in age from high school all the way to senior citizen.
He said he has overheard customers in his own lobby talking on their cell phones arranging deals to sell the very pills they are waiting for as he fills their prescriptions.
He said he doesn’t put up with it when he hears it, but he cannot catch everyone who is coming in to scam him.
Ellison said stolen prescriptions and those scanned off the Internet are becoming harder to spot.
“With all the new technology, prescriptions are being forged with the doctor’s name, time stamps, patient numbers,” he said.
Most addicts today are seeking hydrocodone or other narcotic pain medications — a change from years back when everyone wanted valium, Ellison said.
The number of break-ins, fraudulent prescriptions and people out there doctor shopping continue to rise, he added.
More and more, doctor’s are writing for these prescriptions and the addicts come to know which doctors will and which ones won’t write them.
“You can tell they kind of network. You fill a prescription for someone and very soon you start getting calls,” he said.
The pill-seeking con artists know how to work the system, too.
They will call in their prescriptions after hours, when it is too late for Ellison to call the doctor’s office to confirm. Other times they come from out of state from places like Georgia and Florida, he said.
And it’s not just pain pills.
“There are certain medications prescribed to help people get off of the things they are addicted to. We have them coming in trying to get those as well,” he said.
He no longer carries psuedoephedrine, the key ingredient in the manufacture of methamphetamine.
“The larger pharmacies will still carry it, and even though they do check IDs and follow the law, you just know...” he said.
Coors Pharmacy has not been broken into in a couple years, Ellison said.
The last time, however, a local man broke in through the roof and took nothing but pain meds.
“The police felt like they knew who it was. Then one day a woman called us saying her son went to buy some crack and heard the man saying he had pills for sale — pills he got from breaking in here,” Ellison said.
Police arrested the man, but he got right back out again, he said.
Ellison did not want to identify the burglar, but said he knows the man is now in jail on other charges.