Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem, and medications that are prescribed by doctors are often getting into the wrong hands, sometimes in the most sophisticated of ways. The government is investigating yet another illegal drug ring involving prescription medications; drugs that originated in New York and made their way throughout the entire country.
Dealing with prescription drug abuse
Prescription drugs can be worth large sums of money if sold illegally, and there is now a sizeable black market for any kind of prescription drug. Even patients who get prescriptions through Medicaid will sometimes sell the pills to make a little extra money.
The most recent FBI investigation involves individuals who bought prescription medications from Medicaid recipients and then turned around and sold the pills. The buyers in this case, however, sold the pills to pharmacies and other wholesale prescription drug companies across the country. More than $16 million worth of drugs, including 33,000 bottles and more than 250,000 loose pills, were seized by the FBI in this case. The scheme cost taxpayers $500 million, according to prosecutors.
The case of the Medicaid-funded drug ring has many people outraged. Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York, calls the activity a fraud. "It worked a fraud on Medicaid -- in some cases, two times over -- a fraud on pharmaceutical companies, a fraud on legitimate pharmacies, a fraud on patients who unwittingly bought second-hand drugs, and ultimately, a fraud on the entire health care system."
Many people are questioning the procedures put in place for Medicaid recipients. Some say it is too easy for Medicaid patients to obtain medications with the intent to sell or abuse them. An estimated 65,000 Medicaid patients in 5 states visited multiple doctors last year for the purpose of obtaining additional prescriptions. These prescriptions were then abused by the patient or sold on the black market.
Cases like this leave us wondering how this type of abuse can be stopped. Some states have taken action to crack down on prescription drug abuse, especially involving taxpayer-funded Medicaid prescriptions. In some areas, patients are required to obtain pre-authorization before they can have certain prescriptions filled. Many other areas have implemented prescription drug databases that are designed to make it difficult to obtain duplicate prescriptions. It will be important for the government, pharmacies, and doctors to all work to tighten up regulations in order to put an end to this kind of illegal prescription drug trafficking.