The Centre Police Department recently sponsored a workshop on recognizing forged and altered prescriptions. Agencies represented at the workshop included the Centre Police Department, Cedar Bluff Police Department, ABC Board, Fort Payne Police Department and the District Attorney’s office. All local pharmacies were invited to participate as well.
Instructor for the course was Brantley “Bubba” Bishop, a drug agent with the Etowah County Drug Task Force.
“There are two main things to remember,” said Bishop. “Number one, build the best rapport you can with your pharmacist. Get to know your pharmacist, let them know you are going to be there and number two, be personable with your doctor. Good public relations is important. Let them know you are there. You have pharmacies calling doctors to verify the script and the doctor finds out it isn’t any good. So a lot of times I get two phone calls on a script, one from the pharmacist and one from the doctor.”
Bishop shared information on some of the cases he has worked and the mistakes some of the forgers made that gave them away.
“One script was called in by a certified physical therapist who has no license any more,” said Bishop. “She ruined her life over a pill, Hydrocodone, like a lot of people have. She called in a script on an elderly lady that she took care of once a week.”
“This one guy had two scripts made on a computer,” said Bishop. “This guy had an Oxycontin ring going in 2000. I caught them all except one. One spilled his guts out. I let him walk. I had all my pharmacies alerted, this boy came in and tried to pass a script, I nabbed him and he spilled his guts.”
In another case, Bishop said, a man used his wife’s Blue Cross/Blue Shield Card to purchase $500 worth of Oxycontin for $20.
“One guy was in rehab in Hattiesburg, Miss. with the doctor that he was writing the prescription on,” said Bishop. “The doctor taught him how in rehab how to write scripts and all this good stuff. On the front are two computer-generated scripts. On the back is the original script. They are a little different.”
There was one case, Bishop said, in which a girl offered to get her grandmother’s prescription filled and decided to “treat” herself in the process.
“She added some Xanax on the bottom,” said Bishop. “How do you spell Xanax? X-a-n-a-x. She spelled it with a Z! Red flag! So we go in and nab her on a Saturday morning. One young lady had altered a script from 20 to 40 pills. She is serving 46 months in federal pen for tampering with over 150 narcotic items on from a local hospital. She had two felonies prior to going to federal court and they kind of went against her. She is no longer a nurse and will never be a nurse.”
Another man stole some blank prescriptions from his doctors’ office, Bishop said.
“He used his old scripts, the prescription the doctor wrote him, to copy the best he could the handwriting stuff to get him some narcotics,” said Bishop. “He did a pretty good job because he got them both filled.”
Bishop shared information about one case in which a man poured hot grease on himself on more than one occasion just so he could go to the emergency room and get some Lortabs. His habit eventually cost him his job and caused he and his family other embarrassment as well.
“Physicians Assistants also come under the medical board and they can write prescriptions for elective drugs, or non-narcotics,” said Bishop. “This includes blood pressure medicine, heart medicine, etc., but PAs cannot write any narcotics. I have a PA who wrote himself and his wife all the narcotics they wanted on the doctor he worked for. He went to nine different pharmacies.”
The average person doesn’t change pharmacists or doctors at the drop of a hat, Bishop pointed out.
“I’ve used the same pharmacy for 20 years,” said Bishop. “I only use one pharmacy and I only use one doctor. But when you look at some of the profiles of people who have gone to 15 doctors in three months, it is unreal!”
The system does work, however, when medical professionals and law enforcement personnel work together. Bishop shared of one case in which a pharmacist was filling in for another. While looking at one script, he knew the doctor in question and what his prescriptions looked like. Therefore, he was able to alert law enforcement agencies to an attempted forgery.
“People think they have it made,” said Bishop. “The think it is so smart to try this stuff.”
Bishop urged law enforcement agents to take advantage of one other valuable tool in stopping forgeries and altered prescriptions and that is the Drug Identification Bible.
He notes that some of the less populated areas probably aren’t affected as bad as some of the larger populated areas.
“The more volume of people you have, the more problems you are going to have,” said Bishop