INSIGHTS: Beware of altered, forged or fraudulent prescriptions: a reminder for pharmacists

May 17, 2017


The case scenario: A patient made a complaint to the Pharmacy Board of Australia (‘Board’) that a pharmacist refused to dispense a prescription for Mogadon. The pharmacist explained to the Board that the reason he refused to dispense the prescription was because the previous year the patient had presented to the pharmacy with a forged or altered prescription for Mogadon.

The Board’s decision

Although the pharmacist did not in fact dispense the forged prescription the year prior, the Board found that the pharmacist had breached his statutory obligations because he failed to notify the Victorian Police and the Department of Health and Human Services: Drugs and Poisons Regulation (‘Department’) when the patient had presented him with the forged or altered prescription.

The Board cautioned the pharmacist and referred the matter to the Department, which may lead to the Department conducting its own investigation into the pharmacist’s conduct and penalties on the pharmacist.

Lessons to be learned

Pharmacists have a professional and legislative responsibility to ensure medicines are supplied lawfully and those medicines are safe and appropriate for the patient. The pharmacist’s knowledge and experience is at times the only barrier to undesirable outcomes.

Although the vast majority of prescriptions do not require an intervention, pharmacists should critically examine and assess all prescriptions before deciding whether to supply all, some or none of the prescribed medicines. The pharmacist should communicate with the prescribing doctor where there is reason to believe the dispensing of the medication might be unsafe, inappropriate or unlawful.

Regulation 31(b) of the Drugs Poisons and Controlled Substances Regulations (Vic) 2006 requires pharmacists to notify the police and the Department, without delay, of the circumstances concerning the presentation of a prescription, where the pharmacist has reason to believe that the prescription has been forged or is fraudulent in any way. It is important to note that pharmacists are not exempt from reporting if they believe that the Department and police have already been notified by another pharmacy or by the prescribing doctor. Similar notification provisions exist in other states.

The form for reporting forged and/or altered prescriptions to the Department is available on the Department’s website. It is strongly recommended that pharmacists make contemporaneous notes of all communications made in relation to an intervention such as in the pharmacy’s dispensing records (e.g. calls made to the prescribing doctor, the Department, the police etc.). This will allow a pharmacist to demonstrate compliance with their statutory obligations and ensure that colleagues know whether notifications and communications have occurred.

Please contact Principal Kellie Dell’Oro if you have any questions regarding your obligations.