Perhaps the following is as familiar to
you as it is for medico-legal organisations: “I’ve just discovered that my car
has been broken into and I think my prescription pad has been stolen.”
About a year ago, we
wrote an article about what doctors should know about forged prescriptions,
including what to do when they suspected their script pads or paper had been
lost or stolen, and when contacted to verify the authenticity of a script by a
Since then we have received more requests for advice on
Generally, pharmacists have an obligation to notify the
state health department and the police if they reasonably believe a script
has been forged or fraudulently altered. Some states also have specific
processes they encourage practitioners to follow if their prescription pad
has been lost, stolen or forged.
In NSW, the Ministry of Health
Pharmaceutical Regulatory Unit (PRU) has advised that they will be
publishing the details of all purported prescribers whose prescriptions
have been reported as lost, stolen or forged.
The department has an
ongoing concern about addictive drugs being dispensed on the basis of
stolen or forged prescriptions and is hoping to address this with broader
and more timely distribution of stationery for reporting lost, stolen or
forged prescriptions. The list is available on the NSW
Ministry of Health website.
The NSW Health website also has a form
for practitioners to report loss, theft or forgeries. If you have
previously reported an incident and your name is not on the list, consider
contacting NSW Health to have your name added by completing the form available.
Health Victoria also publishes lists of practitioners whose names have been reported to have been fraudulently used on forged
prescriptions and clinics from which pages have been reported stolen or forged.
In light of
the NSW announcement, the list below clarifies the recommended steps to follow
regarding lost, stolen or forged scripts:
- If contacted by a
pharmacist about a forged script, you can ask them to send you a copy and then
confirm that you did not write that script (but no other private details
should be disclosed).
- You should notify the relevant department in
your state or territory regarding the forgery by completing any necessary
form or online submission. The pharmacist may also be legally required to
make this notification.
- If you discover a script pad/script paper
has been stolen or is lost, you should notify the relevant department in
your state or territory (see box).
- Privacy laws do not prevent you
from notifying the relevant department or the police but you should release
only as much patient information as necessary.
Managing and reducing the risk of prescription fraud
all reasonable care to protect prescriptions from misuse or theft is still
the best preventative strategy. This includes such steps as:
leaving pads or stationery lying on desks, on car seats or other easily
visible or accessible locations.
- Not leaving patients unattended in
a consulting room.
- Storing pads and prescription stationery in a
locked cabinet or drawer.
- Avoid over-ordering pads or prescription
- Avoid leaving prescription pads at nursing homes or other
- Securely destroying prescription pads or stationery if
you no longer require them.
Who to contact if you lose your
ACT: Pharmaceutical Services
Ph: (02) 6205 0998
Ph: (02) 9391 9944
NT: Medicines & Poisons Control
Ph: (08) 8922 7341
Queensland: Medicines Regulation and
Ph: (07) 3328 9890
SA: Drugs of
Ph: 1300 652 584
and Poisons Regulation
Ph: 1300 364 545
WA: Pharmaceutical Services
This article was originally published in Medical
Observer in October 2017.
Prescription fraud - what you need to know
If you would like
further advice on this issue or any other issues, visit our website or for
immediate advice, call our Medico-legal Advisory Service (MLAS) on 1800 128 268, 24-7 in emergencies.
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