The DEA has declared prescription drug abuse to be the fastest-growing drug problem in the nation. It is of particular concern because legally obtained substances can lead to addiction or death. One source of this problem is when medical offices act as “pill mills,” writing unnecessary prescriptions for narcotics which are then filled at the brick and mortar pharmacies who work with them. Together, they promote the illegal sale of controlled pharmaceuticals.

In response to this epidemic, the DEA has increased its enforcement efforts against pharmacies suspected of diverting controlled substances. In doing so, they have broadened the legal standard delineating legal from illegal dispensing of pharmaceutical medicines.

Prescriptions Must Be for a “Legitimate Medical Purpose”

The case of The Medicine Shoppe v. Loretta Lynch, et al. has determined that pharmacists and prescribing physicians are equally liable when it comes to regulating the dissemination of narcotics. The Medicine Shoppe, a small family-run pharmacy in San Antonio, was accused in 2013 of failing to ensure that the prescriptions it filled were being issued for a legitimate medical purpose per DEA regulation. The Medicine Shoppe claimed that they knew the physician and his patients and would routinely call the office to verify prescriptions before filling them. Regardless, they had their COR revoked in 2014.

In court, it was determined that pharmacists share a “corresponding responsibility” with physicians who write unnecessary prescriptions regardless of whether the prescription was authenticated with the prescribing doctor. It is the duty of pharmacists to identify and resolve any red flags before filling a prescription – any pharmacists found to have been willfully ignorant of the true purpose of a prescription can face criminal prosecution and a loss of licensure.

Pharmacists Required to Act Beyond the Scope of Their State License

Pharmacists are not immune from prosecution just because they have verified a prescription with a doctor, and must remain vigilant in the war against pill mills and prescription drug abuse. To read the full text of Jeffrey Grass’ article for the American Bar Association Health Law Section’s The Health Lawyer, please follow the link above.

If you have been charged with a crime involving prescription drugs, please contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey C. Grass at (972) 954-4441.