What to do when your prescription pad is stolen

Jan 12, 2018

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 pharmacist.

Since then we have received more requests for advice on this issue.

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

Taking all reasonable care to protect prescriptions from misuse or theft is still the best preventative strategy. This includes such steps as:

  • Not 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 paper.
  • Avoid leaving prescription pads at nursing homes or other locations.
  • Securely destroying prescription pads or stationery if you no longer require them.

Who to contact if you lose your prescription pad

ACT: Pharmaceutical Services
Ph: (02) 6205 0998

NSW: Pharmaceutical Services
Ph: (02) 9391 9944

Online notification form

NT: Medicines & Poisons Control
Ph: (08) 8922 7341

Queensland: Medicines Regulation and Quality
Ph: (07) 3328 9890

SA: Drugs of Dependence Unit
Ph: 1300 652 584

Victoria: Drugs and Poisons Regulation
Ph: 1300 364 545

Online notification form

WA: Pharmaceutical Services
Ph: (08) 9222 6883

This article was originally published in Medical Observer in October 2017.

More information

Article: 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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