Who Can Be Charged With Prescription Drug Fraud Crimes?
Prescription drugs can be life-giving — literally. When prescribed correctly in accordance with a medically necessary treatment regimen, medications serve an important purpose. However, when these substances aren’t prescribed for medically necessary conditions or are used or distributed in inappropriate ways, they can become part of serious drug crimes.
Healthcare providers, patients, and others who abuse the prescription drug system can be charged with crimes and face serious civil and criminal consequences. That’s especially true for those who are found guilty of illegal distribution of controlled dangerous substances.
Find out more about prescription drug fraud and where the line is below. And if you’re facing allegations that you crossed that line — as a patient, healthcare provider, or someone else — protect yourself by working with an experienced criminal defense team such as the team of former prosecutors at the Bianchi Law Group.
Can Healthcare Providers Be Charged With Prescription Drug Fraud?
If healthcare providers, including doctors, nurses, pharmacies, or others, are abusing the system to gain inappropriate access to prescription drugs or participate in a fraud scheme for profit, they can be charged with crimes.
For example, in August 2022, a New Jersey pharmacy was charged in a case that involved the illegal distribution of prescription drugs. The pharmacy admitted to illegally distributing prescription fentanyl (TIRF) and other controlled substances, and conspiring to provide kickbacks to others within the industry.
Specifically, in this case, the pharmacy was accused of a variety of actions, including:
- Filling prescriptions that it knew were not medically necessary and came from medical providers that had a history of suspicious prescribing patterns
- Filling prescriptions without having the required original prescription
- Providing dangerous prescription medications to individuals despite a reasonable expectation that the pharmacy would have identified the patients as exhibiting drug-seeking behaviors
- Filling prescriptions even in the face of suspicious activity, such as constant demands for early refills, having prescriptions shipped to questionable addresses like hotels, and patients paying thousands of dollars in cash for medications
Does this mean a pharmacy can’t ever accept cash payments because that’s automatically suspicious or that an early refill means someone is committing drug fraud? Of course not. There are legitimate reasons someone might need an early refill, even on controlled substances such as opioid pain medication. Perhaps they lost their medicine or left it at home when they went on a trip.
However, healthcare providers — including pharmacies and physicians — have a duty of care to protect patients. That duty of care includes some level of responsibility for the medications that are prescribed and provided.
If a provider is engaging in prescribing or distribution activity that flies in the face of that duty of care, they may face civil consequences. And if a provider is engaging in activity that might be supporting the illegal distribution and sale of prescription drugs on the street, they are likely to face criminal charges.
Can Patients Be Charged With Prescription Drug Fraud?
Yes, patients can also be charged with crimes if they seek to obtain prescription drugs through improper channels. New Jersey law says that it’s illegal for anyone to acquire controlled dangerous substances via deception, forgery, misrepresentation, or fraud.
It’s obviously illegal to steal a prescription pad from a doctor’s office and forge prescriptions. But you might also land in hot water if you lie about symptoms to get prescription medications or hop from doctor to doctor and pharmacy to pharmacy to get more prescription medication than you really need. If you then provide those medications to someone else or sell them, the charges can get even more serious.
What Type of Consequences Might You Face if Convicted?
What consequences you might face if you are charged with or convicted of prescription drug fraud depends on factors such as your profession, mitigating circumstances, what drugs were involved, and what you did with those drugs once you received them.
Distribution of a controlled dangerous substance can be a fourth- to first-degree crime, depending on the type of substance and other factors of the case. That means you could face several months to many years in prison as well as monetary fines if you commit prescription drug fraud with the intent to gain illicit prescription drugs and distribute them to others.
If you are a healthcare provider charged with such a crime, you can face the suspension or revocation of your license to practice. You may also face civil fines and sanctions, and if someone was injured or died as a result of medications you improperly prescribed, you might also deal with personal injury and malpractice lawsuits.
Work With an Experienced Team of Former Prosecutors for Your Defense
The federal and state governments have some pretty strict laws about controlled substances for good reasons. When used improperly, these substances can be highly addictive and dangerous.
However, whenever strict laws are in place, there is always the chance that someone may get caught up in the net inadvertently. For example, a compassionate healthcare provider or pharmacy truly trying to help patients might get caught up in allegations.
If you are facing prescription drug charges, it’s important to protect yourself with a strong defense. By working with a team of former prosecutors who understand the criminal justice system and laws in New Jersey, you receive the guidance you need to make smart decisions about your defense. Reach out to the Bianchi Law Group today at 862-210-8570 to find out how we can help.