Stolen or fabricated prescription pads are contributing to the surge in prescription drug abuse, experts say. There is a growing call for computer systems that directly link doctors to pharmacies, to avoid this problem.
The federal government is offering bonus payments for physicians who voluntarily stop using paper prescriptions, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The newspaper notes 34 percent of office-based prescribers are sending their prescriptions electronically through the Medicare program.
Computerized prescribing, or “E-prescribing,” is gaining in popularity, mostly as a way to reduce medication errors. The Drug Enforcement Administration began giving physicians the option to send prescriptions electronically for painkillers in 2010.
At a California diagnostic imaging center, investigators in March found thousands of unsigned prescription pads that were stored there as part of a suspected Medicare fraud scam. Last fall, the New York State Health Department reported an unknown number of blank prescription pads had been stolen from hospitals in New York City since 2008. The thefts are thought to be linked to gangs selling prescription painkillers illegally.
The New York State Health Department believes the stolen prescription forms are mainly being used to obtain the painkiller oxycodone. The prescriptions have been used in New York as well as several other states, and at mail-order pharmacies.
A memorandum by the Health Department says a large nationwide organized crime gang known to traffic in illicit and legal drugs is involved in the distribution of stolen prescription forms. State officials said they planned to review policies and safeguards to protect prescription forms at New York hospitals, and will draw up new guidelines, according to the memo.