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by Colorado Criminal Drug Crimes Criminal Defense Lawyer – H. Michael Steinberg
The New Colorado Prescription Drug Monitoring Program – is going to make it more difficult to both defend and to commit prescription fraud in the state of Colorado. This article explains the use of this new technology and examines it’s impact on the investigation and prosecution of so called “script fraud” case.
Under the new law – Colorado pharmacist have steadily been uploading information into a new state database called the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.
The concept behind the database is intended to stop so called “doctor-shopping” by alleged drug abusers who seek to obtain multiple prescriptions from different sources.
Called the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program – the database permits doctors and pharmacists to research what their present or future patients have been prescribed.. but more importantly – to see if the patients have been “doctor shopping” or visiting different doctors to obtain the same or similar controlled substances.
The Colorado Prescription Drug Monitoring Program includes a patient’s name, the source of the prescription (the doctor who prescribed it)- the dispensing pharmacy and other data regarding the number of “scripts” – locations of the scripts etc.
…is available for online queries from the following Colorado licensed individuals:
· Physician Assistants;
· Nurses with Prescriptive Authority;
· Resident Physicians with Training Licenses.
The PDMP provides a private and secure database of controlled substance prescriptions that have been dispensed by registered Colorado pharmacies. The purpose of the creation of the database was to provide objective information to assist prescribers and pharmacists in providing the right treatment for their patients.
The database is accessible online….and patients can receive their own personal PDMP data by submitting a written request form.
Those in Law Enforcement officials may submit requests to receive PDMP data, via the forms available in the “Law Enforcement” tab…. but as noted below A COURT ORDER or SUBPOENA is required.
Colorado DORA – and other Regulatory Boards within the Division of Professions and Occupations or the Director of the Division of Professions and Occupations can also obtain prescriber data.. But because these are MEDICAL RECORDS AND ARE PRIVATE – a court order or subpoena is required to access the data.
According to statistics – the majority of the so called “abusers” are employed (70%) and are white (80%). A Denver Post examination of the new system – and my own experience – has demonstrated the devastation of charges to a person’s career…especially if that career is in health care.
Losing a good paying job – friends – the support of family and risking a permanent criminal history – is just part of the collateral and direct impacts of these cases.
In Colorado – since 2003, “script fraud” charges have been filed at least 2,245 times in Colorado against people who are accused of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud or deceit
Prescription drug fraud takes many forms. The focus of law enforcement usually is on the forging or altering of a valid a prescription, doctor shopping, phoning in fraudulent prescriptions posing as a doctor’s office employee or the theft and us of prescription pads.
Forging prescriptions in Colorado. Because of the ease of high-quality copying equipment forging prescriptions has become cheaper and much easier. Creative offenders go so far as to “paint glue” on the top edge of a so called prescription to make it seem as if it was ripped from a pad.
Altering prescriptions in Colorado. The most prevalent attempt to obtain prescription drugs is to alter a legitimate prescription by either changing the type of drug, increasing the number of refills, increasing the quantity, or even adding drugs to the presecription.
The typical ACTUAL CHARGE brought by law enforcement in Colorado is the following law;
“No person shall obtain a controlled substance or procure the administration of a controlled substance by fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, or subterfuge;
or by the forgery or alteration of an order;
or by the concealment of a material fact;
or by the use of a false name or the giving of a false address.”
In Colorado Vicodin and Darvocet are the most commonly abused prescription drug. With a consistent support of state money to fund the database – it appears as if it is a permanent part of the future for Colorado. Across the country – the most commonly misused prescription drugs are opioid pain relievers, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone. Police investigations focus on Vicodin® (hydrocodone), OxyContin® (oxycodone), Lorcet®, Dilaudid®, Percocet®, Soma®, Darvocet®, and morphine. Young people prefer such controlled substances such as codeine, methadone, Demerol® (meperidine), Percocet, Vicodin, and OxyContin.
While the law does not mandate reporting abuses to law enforcement – it is clear that the database will be used as a source for proving criminal cases. The database is easily accessible through the use of a court order or a subpoena from the district attorney in the course of an investigation.
While the database is not usually the source of the initiation of an investigation – it provides evidence that can be used in the investigation and prosecution of Colorado prescription fraud cases.
According to the Denver Post investigation – at present – “doctors and pharmacies in Colorado check the state’s prescription drug monitoring database only 10 to 15 percent of the time before dispensing opioids” this is according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Because use of the database is option – not mandatory – doctors – and pharmacists do not make checking the database part of their routine… not with the volume of prescriptions that are dispensed daily in Colorado. It is only when suspicions are raised by certain patterns of patients – that pharmacists and doctors are more likely to check the database.
Known as “red flagging” – if you are suspected of script fraud – your name will be flagged in the database by those having access to it. At that point – obtaining multiple prescriptions will be much more difficult.
(1) Except as otherwise provided in this article or in article 22 of title 12, C.R.S., the following acts are unlawful:
(a) The dispensing or possession of a schedule I controlled substance except by a researcher who is registered under federal law to conduct research with that Schedule I controlled substance;
(b) Except as provided in subsection (2) of this section, the dispensing of any Schedule II controlled substance unless such substance is dispensed from a pharmacy pursuant to a written order or is dispensed by any practitioner in the course of his professional practice;
(c) The dispensing of any schedule III, IV, or V controlled substance unless such controlled substance is dispensed from a pharmacy pursuant to a written, oral, mechanically produced, computer generated, electronically transmitted, or facsimile transmitted order or is dispensed by any practitioner in the course of his or her professional practice;
(d) The dispensing of any marihuana or marihuana concentrate;
(e) To refill any schedule III, IV, or V controlled substance more than six months after the date on
which such prescription was issued or more than five times;
(f) The failure of a pharmacy to file and retain the prescription as required in section 12-22-318, C.R.S.;
(g) The failure of a hospital to record and maintain a record of such dispensing as provided in section 12-22-318, C.R.S.;
(h) The refusal to make available for inspection and to accord full opportunity to check any record or file as required by this article or part 3 of article 22 of title 12, C.R.S.;
(i) The failure to keep records as required by this article or part 3 of article 22 of title 12, C.R.S.;
(j) The failure to obtain a license as required by this article or part 3 of article 22 of title 12, C.R.S.;
(k) Except when controlled substances are dispensed by a practitioner for direct administration in the course of his practice or are dispensed for administration to hospital inpatients, the failure to affix to the immediate container a label stating:
(I) The name and address of the person from whom such controlled substance was dispensed;
(1) The general assembly finds, determines, and declares that:
(a) Prescription drug abuse occurs in this country to an extent that exceeds or rivals the abuse of illicit drugs;
(b) Prescription drug abuse occurs at times due to the deception of the authorized practitioners where patients seek controlled substances for treatment and the practitioner is unaware of the patient’s other medical providers and treatments;
(c) Electronic monitoring of prescriptions for controlled substances provides a mechanism whereby practitioners can discover the extent of each patient’s requests for drugs and whether other providers have prescribed similar substances during a similar period of time;
(d) Electronic monitoring of prescriptions for controlled substances provides a mechanism for law enforcement officials and regulatory boards to efficiently investigate practitioner behavior that is potentially harmful to the public
(1) The board shall develop or procure a prescription controlled substance electronic program to track information regarding prescriptions for controlled substances dispensed in Colorado, including the following information:
(a) The date the prescription was dispensed;
(b) The name of the patient and the practitioner;
(c) The name and amount of the controlled substance;
(d) The method of payment;
(e) The name of the dispensing pharmacy; and
(f) Any other data elements necessary to determine whether a patient is visiting multiple practitioners or pharmacies, or both, to receive the same or similar medication.
(2) Each practitioner and each dispensing pharmacy shall disclose to a patient receiving a controlled substance that his or her identifying prescription information will be entered into the program database and may be accessed for limited purposes by specified individuals.
(3) The board shall establish a method and format for prescription drug outlets to convey the necessary information to the board or its designee. The method must not require more than a one-time entry of data per patient per prescription by a prescription drug outlet.
(4) The division may contract with any individual or public or private agency or organization in carrying out the data collection and processing duties required by this part 4.
(1) The board shall operate and maintain the program.
(2) The board shall adopt all rules necessary to implement the program.
(3) The program is available for query only to the following persons or groups of persons:
(a) Board staff responsible for administering the program;
(b) Any practitioner with the statutory authority to prescribe controlled substances to the extent the query relates to a current patient of the practitioner to whom the practitioner is prescribing or considering prescribing any controlled substance;
(c) Practitioners engaged in a legitimate program to monitor a patient’s drug abuse;
(d) Pharmacists, to the extent the information requested relates specifically to a current patient to whom the pharmacist is dispensing or considering dispensing a controlled substance or to whom the pharmacist is providing clinical patient care services;
(e) Law enforcement officials so long as the information released is specific to an individual patient or practitioner and is part of a bona fide investigation, and the request for information is accompanied by an official court order or subpoena;
(f) The individual who is the recipient of a controlled substance prescription so long as the information released is specific to the individual;
(g) State regulatory boards within the division and the director of the division so long as the information released is specific to an individual practitioner and is part of a bona fide investigation, and the request for information is accompanied by an official court order or subpoena; and
(h) A resident physician with an active physician training license issued by the Colorado medical board pursuant to section 12-36-122 and under the supervision of a licensed physician.
(4) The board shall not charge a practitioner or pharmacy who transmits data in compliance with the operation and maintenance of the program a fee for the transmission of the data.
(5) The board, pursuant to a written agreement that ensures compliance with this part 4, may provide data to qualified personnel of a public or private entity for the purpose of bona fide research or education so long as the data does not identify a recipient of a practitioner who prescribed, or a prescription drug outlet that dispensed, a prescription drug.
(6) The board shall provide a means of sharing information about individuals whose information is recorded in the program with out-of-state health care practitioners and law enforcement officials that meet the requirements of paragraph (b), (c), or (e) of subsection (3) of this section.
Denver Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer
The Law Offices of H. Michael Steinberg, in Denver, Colorado, provides criminal defense clients with effective, efficient, intelligent and strong legal advocacy. We can educate you and help you navigate the stressful and complex legal process related to your criminal defense issue.
H. Michael Steinberg, is a Denver, Colorado criminal defense lawyer who will provide you with a free initial case consultation to evaluate your legal issues and answer your questions with an honest assessment of your options as regards The New Colorado Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.