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Understanding prescription fraud in Pennsylvania

When most people think of illegal drugs, substances like marijuana and cocaine are typically what come to mind. Many people fail to realize, however, that prescription medications may also be considered illegal, if they do not have valid prescriptions. Based on a 2013 survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, it was estimated that nearly 6.5 million people across the U.S. were using prescription medications for non-medicinal purposes. If such medications are obtained fraudulently in Philadelphia, or throughout Pennsylvania, people could face prescription drug fraud charges.

Pennsylvania state law defines drug fraud as acquiring or obtaining controlled substances through fraud, forgery, deception, misrepresentation or subterfuge. The Drug Enforcement Administration points out that this could include the following:

  •        Writing prescriptions using stolen prescription pads from legitimate physicians
  •        Having prescription pads printed with legitimate doctors’ information, but their own call back numbers
  •        Creating prescriptions for fake doctors on the computer
  •        Altering the amounts of medications that they were legitimately prescribed by a licensed physician

Additionally, people calling medications in to pharmacies for themselves and giving their phone number as the callback number may also be considered prescription drug fraud, according to the DEA.

As is the case with other illegal drugs, prescription drug fraud is also graded and penalized based on the type of drug involved. Those convicted of this offense could be fined up to $5,000 for schedule V substances, and as much as $250,000 for schedule I or II narcotics. Additionally, they could also be sentenced to anywhere between one year in jail and 15 years in prison if convicted of this offense.

In Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, a prescription drug fraud charge is a serious offense, with potentially lasting consequences. As such, those facing this, or other drug crimes, may benefit from seeking legal counsel. An attorney may advise them of their options, as well as help them to build a solid criminal defense.

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Gregory R. Gifford
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