In the United States, approximately 1900 drug-related emergency department visits occur every day, accounting for an estimated $3.8 million in related healthcare costs1 — staggering numbers that still fall short of conveying the human toll of illicit drug use.
Better partnerships between healthcare providers and law enforcement officers can help ensure that criminal activity related to prescription pain medications is more effectively communicated to better stop perpetrators in their tracks.
Marc Gonzalez, PharmD, a training and education coordinator at the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI), explained the various manners in which prescription pain medications stray from the purview of patients who need them the most to the illicit drug market during his session, Scammers, Shammers, & Thieves. “You will be amazed at the lengths people have gone to in an effort to divert drugs,” he said.
From unethical providers to doctor-shopping patients and internet pharmacies, Dr. Gonzalez outlined the myriad ways determined individuals obtain controlled substances using fraud, deceit, and subterfuge.
There are several tell-tale signs of fraudulent practitioners: crowded waiting rooms that require code words for entry, multiple patients to an examining room, practices that do not accept new patients, and clinicians who write prescriptions in fewer than 4 minutes without even performing an examination.
Other examples of “pill mills,” or clinics where physicians sell narcotics directly to people for cash, include clinics where patients ask for specific drugs and receive them, those that direct patients to particular pharmacies to have their prescriptions filled, those that bill patients by the prescription instead of by the office visit, and still others that charge patients additional “administrative fees” for writing prescriptions.
The problem also persists in the absence of fraud on the part of healthcare providers. Clinicians whose practices are ethically sound still have reason to worry about patients who “doctor shop” and who are willing to travel far distances and across state lines to illegally obtain prescription pain medications. In some documented cases, individual patients have visited nearly 200 clinicians and slightly more than 100 pharmacies in a single year.
This article originally appeared on MPR