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What Is Prescription Fraud

Misrepresenting yourself to a doctor or pharmacist, doctor shopping, or being dishonest when obtaining controlled substances from a doctor or pharmacist are examples of prescription fraud. Physicians who prescribe drugs without a legitimate purpose may be accused of prescription fraud as well.

Controlled substances are drugs listed by the states or on the federal list of five drug classifications. These include opiates, depressants, and stimulants. Some of the drugs most commonly sought are morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, Valium, and Darvocet.

Doctor Shopping

One of the more common practices of prescription fraud is doctor shopping. Doctors are limited to how much medication they can prescribe to patients. If you visit different doctors at different offices to obtain narcotics and fail to advise them that you are already taking medication or have other prescriptions, you are committing criminal fraud.

Chronic pain sufferers who are addicted to opiates or pain medication and need increasingly larger doses to obtain the same relief often use doctor shopping to obtain drugs. Hospital workers and nurses are common defendants in these cases because they are addicted or want to obtain drugs to sell to others.

Other Examples of Prescription Fraud

Other types of prescription fraud include:

  • Forging prescriptions on a stolen physician’s pad
  • Use of computers to create fake prescriptions
  • Impersonating medical staff to call in prescriptions and using own number as call-back confirmation
  • Altering the drug quantity on a physician's prescription

A physician may face prescription fraud charges for issuing a prescription that is either outside the usual or normal course of the doctor’s practice, or for an illegitimate medical reason. Depending on which state you are prosecuted in, prescription fraud can be either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on prosecutorial discretion and whether the defendant intended to sell the narcotics.


The usual criminal defenses are available in prescription drug cases, including challenges to illegal search and seizures, defective search warrants, and other constitutional violations. A doctor can use the "good faith" defense if a patient fails to disclose a material fact that, if the doctor knew, would not have resulted in a prescription.

Many states use alternative sentencing or dispositions such as drug courts and pre-trial diversion programs in first-offense cases. In such cases, charges may be dropped or dismissed on completion of a court-approved program.

Consulting an experienced criminal defense attorney is essential when charged with a drug crime. It can mean the difference between a bright or an uncertain future. Contact a criminal defense lawyer skilled in drug crimes if you have been charged with prescription fraud.