Atty. General Brown Cracks Down on Massive Prescription Drug Abuse
LOS ANGELES--California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced a crackdown on rampant prescription drug fraud in California, including the top fifty abusers who average more than 100 doctor and pharmacy visits to collect massive quantities of addictive drugs like Valium, Vicodin, and Oxycontin.
“These prescription drug addicts are abusing the system, draining time and money from hundreds of doctors and pharmacies who are there to help real sick people, not con artists,” said Attorney General Brown. “On my order, California Department of Justice special agents launched a statewide search for the most aggressive prescription drug addicts. We want to end these dangerous cycles of fraud and abuse.”
Launched in June this year, the new crackdown has already led to the arrest of dozens of suspects, including Frankie Greer, 53, who visited 183 doctors and 47 pharmacies to feed a prescription drug habit that included some of the most dangerous painkillers in lethal combinations. In a one-year period, Greer sought out multiple doctors at hospital emergency rooms to prescribe her over 4,830 hydrocodone tablets, 2,210 oxycodone tablets, 156 Oxycotin, along with a variety of additional addictive painkillers.
Greer is not alone. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimates that 20 to 30% of the state’s drug abusers primarily use prescription drugs. In addition, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has estimated that 48 million Americans have used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons. A 2005 survey by the Drug Abuse Warning Network estimates the non-medical use of pharmaceuticals accounted for more than 500,000 emergency room visits in California, an enormous drain on the state’s healthcare system.
In addition to costing the state millions each year, prescription drug abuse can have serious public safety consequences, as many of the top abusers hold down regular jobs including truck drivers, transit operators and medical practitioners. The Attorney General has been working in cooperation with the Troy and Alana Pack Foundation, founded by Bob Pack, whose 7 and 10-year old children were killed by a driver who was under the influence of prescription drugs obtained from multiple doctors.
This initiative is part of the Attorney General’s comprehensive plan to address prescription drug abuse in the state and make it easier for doctors to keep track of prescription drug records. Earlier this year, Attorney General Brown unveiled a plan to provide doctors and pharmacies with real-time Internet access to patient prescription drug histories. Under Brown’s proposal, health professionals would have computer access to the drug histories of patients, replacing the current outdated system that required mailing or faxing written requests for information. Each year, more than 60,000 such requests are made to the California Department of Justice.
The state’s database, known as the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System, contains 86 million entries for prescription drugs dispensed in California, giving healthcare professionals the technology they need to fight the prescription drug abuse currently burdening California’s healthcare system.
“Doctors and insurance companies should be on the alert,” added Attorney General Brown. “We are aggressively pursuing the top prescription drug abusers, and we’re also making it easier for doctors to verify health history information provided by new patients. We encourage insurance companies to develop a similar system for protecting themselves against prescription drug fraud.”