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A Guide to Prescription Drug Fraud


The misuse and abuse of prescription pills is a national epidemic across the country. Drug fraud is incredibly complex and can range from relatively minor transgressions to major offenses.

Prescription drugs are considered controlled substances. The Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Title 21 Controlled Substances Act states that the only legal way to get and use prescription drugs is to have a doctor's prescription.

What is Prescription Drug Fraud?

Prescription drug fraud is a broad term that covers illegal activity regarding obtaining, using, selling, and managing prescription drugs. It’s possible for both medical professionals who prescribe drugs and people taking them to be found guilty of drug fraud.

Examples of Drug Fraud

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of ways someone can commit prescription drug fraud. A few of the most common include:

  • “Doctor shopping.” Because doctors can only give a limited supply of a controlled drug, people will visit several doctors at the same time and try to obtain prescriptions from each one. This is common among chronic pain sufferers who have become addicted to pain medication and need more pills to achieve the same “high” each time.
  • Giving prescription drugs to someone else. If you’re prescribed prescription drugs, you’re the only one allowed to take them. It’s illegal to:
    • Give your pills to someone else, even only once.
    • Act as though you’re the one in pain and then give all of the medication you were prescribed to someone else.
  • Taking someone else’s prescription drugs. Many people believe that because the drug was in their family’s medicine cabinet (and not acquired through someone like a drug dealer) that it’s not illegal.
  • Forging prescriptions using a stolen pad. Only qualified medical professionals are allowed to prescribe medication while following all prescription rules (such as using their own pad).

What Makes a Drug Crime a Federal Offense?

Drug offenses can occur at the local, state, and federal level. Because there aren’t always clear and concise laws regarding what qualifies a federal drug crime, courts will consider:

  • The quantity of the controlled substance in question
  • Whether the person had intent to sell
  • If the drugs were trafficked across state borders

Rules for Having/Carrying Prescription Medication

Even if you legally obtained your medication, it’s important to take steps to keep others safe and abide by additional laws regarding prescription pills. A few things to note include:

  • Medication must be in its original case. Especially if you plan on traveling, you should never take medication out of the bottle it came in and place it in something else, like a small bag or case.
  • Abide by refill laws. Schedule III and IV controlled substances cannot be filled or refilled more than 5 times or more than six months after the date the prescription was issued, whichever occurs first. Schedule II prescriptions cannot be refilled.
  • Keep medication away from small children or people struggling with addiction. Though there’s no federal law regarding where you store medication, it’s always best to keep medication away from small children who could accidentally ingest it. If you know someone struggling with addiction or going through recovery, you should also take steps to keep medication out of their reach.

Defenses Against Prescription Fraud

There are several defenses that can be used when battling prescription fraud. These include:

  • Whether or not the drug search was legal. If an officer or federal agent violated your 4th Amendment right and illegally searched your home, car, or personal effects, your case could be dismissed.
  • Whether you were aware of the illegal activity. If a friend takes medication out of your medicine cabinet when going to the bathroom, there’s a general understanding that you were not aware of this and didn’t consent to giving them your pills.

Convictions on federal drug charges are life-altering events for the defendant, and no one should ever assume that the claims of the court will stand in the face of questioning. Georgia residents facing federal charges should call Nick Lotito & Seth Kirschenbaum for comprehensive criminal representation.

Call (404) 471-3177 now for a free consultation for your federal case!

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