Cracking down on prescription drug fraud

Wednesday, June 19th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

As police fight the drug war in Green Country, it's no longer just cocaine, meth and marijuana, but prescription drugs. Officers say more people are forging, altering and creating their own prescriptions.

As News on Six crime reporter Lori Fullbright explains, the Broken Arrow Police Department announced a new plan Wednesday to deal with the problem. More addicts die from prescription drug abuse than all illegal drugs combined. And, those addicts often get their drugs by forging prescriptions; pharmacists like Ida Ureste see it often. "We've seen some copies. When you see so many prescriptions, you know the doctor's habits and know when they don't look right or aren't of that quantity."

Right now, there is no universal way of handling those fake scripts. Some pharmacists throw them away, others report it to doctors, some call police. Broken Arrow police officers want to partner with pharmacists and doctors to attack this problem head-on. Officer Steve Vanscoy, "Report all of them. Even if you contact the doctor and he says its fraud. Don't fill it and don't pitch it in the trash. Contact us and let us know who's trying to do it." Police say it often begins with a legitimate injury and prescription for a painkiller, but then they get addicted and become so desperate, they doctor shop and pharmacy shop.

Addicts will visit four or five doctors in one day or several ER's in one night, always making up stories about sprained ankles and migraines, as this one addict told police after his arrest.” We went to eight hospitals in one night. I got two shots of Demerol which nearly knocked me out, but we obtained 250 Percadans."

Police say right now, the drug of choice for prescription forgers is Lortab, a very powerful pain pill. They say these folks often walk up to drive-thru windows to avoid cameras at the front of the store. They often pay cash and frequently change a doctor's dosage from 10 to 100. Police say with everyone working together, they can make this crime a tougher pill to swallow.

Broken Arrow's "Project Lortab" included two seminars with police and pharmacists Wednesday. The next step is for officers to meet with doctors. They hope to create a universal system for reporting and prosecuting felony prescription fraud.