As the coronavirus spreads, we're going to see more and more repercussions that we might not have been expecting. One of them is prescription drug fraud. This white collar crime is prosecuted at both the state and federal level, and can be a felony – especially if the defendant is a doctor.
Coronavirus Leading to Spikes in Demand for Off-Label Drugs
The chain of events is not especially surprising: As the number of deaths and confirmed cases from the coronavirus goes up, people are getting more and more anxious for their health and safety. They begin looking for drugs that they can take to immunize themselves from the virus, or to stockpile in their medicine cabinets, in case they get infected with COVID-19.
Suddenly, these drugs are flying off the shelves in pharmacies as doctors prescribe them for patients – and even for themselves and their families. The spike in demand has been so extreme that people who rely on these drugs to treat the medical conditions that the drugs have been designed and approved to treat – lupus, autoimmune disease, and rheumatoid arthritis – are now having trouble getting their prescriptions filled.
Whether driven by patients or doctors, much of that increased demand can potentially be prescription drug fraud.
How Patients Can Commit Prescription Drug Fraud
Under 35 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 780-113(a)(12), people who receive a controlled substance, including certain prescription medications, can commit prescription drug fraud if they get the drugs through:
While this does not prohibit patient from asking a doctor to prescribe them certain types of pills – most prescription drug commercials urge patients to do just that – it does forbid patients from stealing drugs or faking injuries or medical conditions in order to get them. This includes impersonating a doctor while trying to get a prescription filled or forging your own prescription order.
While neither hydroxychloroquine nor chloroquine is a controlled substance, fraudulently obtaining either can lead to other charges based on the methods used to get them.
Doctors Can Also Commit Prescription Fraud
Doctors, meanwhile, can be convicted for prescription fraud whenever they prescribe medication without a legitimate medical purpose.
The penalties for prescription fraud by a doctor are not limited to the criminal sanctions, like a fine and jail time. They can also lose their medical license, their practice, and their prescription-writing power even before the charge or investigation has been resolved. If convicted, they could also have to pay restitution if they charged Medicare or Medicaid for the drugs.
Criminal Defense Lawyer Joseph D. Lento Serves Philadelphia
Joseph D. Lento is a criminal defense lawyer who serves people in Philadelphia who have been accused of white-collar crimes like prescription drug fraud – as well as the host of attendant offenses that frequently come with one of these charges.
Contact him online or call his law office at (215) 535-5353 for the legal help you need.