Prescription fraud cases are piling up

Prison uncommon for perpetrators

Prescription drug fraud is on the rise in Richmond County.


Although it takes several forms, the most commonly seen in Richmond County is calling in fake prescriptions.

Vanessa Hoffman, a pharmacist at Barney's Pharmacy, said the Peach Orchard Road pharmacy sees a few cases a month.

"We have a few slip through the cracks but usually after they do it a few times we do catch them," she said.

Typically, it's fairly easy for a pharmacist to differentiate between a fake and the real thing.

The voices don't match the familiar voices the pharmacists hear continually every day, quantities and other required information aren't mentioned and doctors' offices are asking for medications that they never prescribe.

Authorities said pain and anxiety pills top the list for the most commonly sought drugs.

Many think they've gotten away with it, Hoffman said. When the "patient" comes to pick up the prescription, the pharmacist will hand it over. But before the patient can breathe a sigh of relief, a sheriff's deputy is there to make an arrest.

Barney's Pharmacy actually has a sheriff's deputy on duty at the store at all times.

But ultimately, Hoffman said, it's up to the doctor to decide whether to press charges or continue to treat the person if he or she is a patient.

One issue in the battle against prescription fraud is the number of repeat offenders. The majority are put on probation without serving time behind bars.

"I don't think the judges are up to speed on how big of a problem it is," said Richmond County sheriff's Sgt. Greg Meagher. "They're not giving these people a lot of time at all."

Because the number of prescription fraud cases has continued to increase, the Richmond County narcotics division opted to have one person devoted to handling all of them.

While the majority of narcotics arrests are still connected to cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine, Richmond County is seeing a "super large rise in pills," Meagher said.

In Columbia County, Staff Sgt. Trip Penn said approximately 25 percent of the narcotics arrests are related to prescription medications.

The number of arrests was not available for Richmond County.

Investigators pointed out that unlike other drugs, prescription drug abuse is not one that stays within racial or social boundaries.

Other law enforcement agencies around the country are starting to collect unused prescription drugs from its residents in an effort to cut down on the abuse of prescription drugs.

Meagher said Richmond County has not discussed the possibility of starting a similar program.

However, local agencies are concerned as they begin to see younger people become addicted and see an increase in abuse in the school systems.

"We're seeing about as many prescription pills at schools as we are all other drugs at schools combined," Penn said.

The kids are not only slipping a pill or two from the medicine cabinet at home to sell, but they're also selling their own prescriptions.

Aderall, used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is popular among teenagers.