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Pharmacies Should Not Ignore These Prescription “Red Flags”

In the midst of the opioid epidemic, regulators have become increasingly focused on prescriptions that are not issued for a legitimate medical purpose. Pharmacies should be aware of the “red flags” or warning signs that may indicate the presence of a fraudulent or forged prescription, as the DEA and various state Boards of Pharmacy have revoked controlled substances permits and pharmacy licenses for pharmacies that have failed to resolve red flags prior to dispensing controlled substances. The DEA has provided a list of these “red flags”. Some of these “red flags” include: 

  • Prescriber writes significantly more prescriptions for controlled substances than other prescribers in area
  • Patient returning too frequently to receive additional medication
  • Patients presenting prescriptions for antagonistic drugs, such as depressants and stimulants, at the same time
  • Patients presenting prescriptions written in the names of other people

Pharmacies should also be aware of the presence of forged prescriptions. Some forged prescription “red flags” include:

  • Handwriting on prescription is too legible (that is, the prescription looks “too good”)
  • Quantities, directions, or dosages differ from usual medical usage
  • Prescription appears photocopied

Importantly, these are just “red flags,” and the presence of them does not necessarily render the prescriptions invalid. However, pharmacies must have clear policies and procedures designed to ensure that these “red flags” are identified and examined. Avoiding these “red flags” is to risk increased chances of adverse consequences, whether administrative, civil or criminal. Having an attorney review your DEA dispensing compliance protocols is essential. Frier Levitt has extensive compliance experience, including risk assessments, drafting compliance programs and guidelines, organizational monitoring, and training. Contact Frier Levitt today to speak to an attorney regarding ways in which your pharmacy can identify and adequately respond to “red flags.”