Foiling drug rings a priority for law enforcement, payers

With prescription drug abuse at epidemic proportions, problems with individuals doctor shopping have made way for organized groups that profit from drug trafficking, according to WSOC-TV.

"One person is almost always in charge and they'll direct the other people on how to forge and manage diverted prescriptions," Donnie Varnell, special agent in-charge at the North Carolina Department of Justice, told WSOC.

When local pharmacies fill fake prescriptions (usually for oxycodone), drugs dispensed may be resold in schoolyards and neighborhoods nationwide, the article stated.

It's a lucrative scheme: Oxycodone sells for $1 per milligram on the street, and a 30-pill bottle is worth $900. So a dealer who recruits 10 people to fill a fake prescription for one bottle each can rake in $9,000 per day, WSOC reported. To avoid getting caught, dealers may cross state lines.

People most often used as runners for drug rings are addicts who are paid in pills. And drug rings may include collusive patients and providers.

To tackle the problem of prescription painkiller abuse, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts implemented precertification for opioids, and substance abuse professionals elsewhere pushed for insurance coverage of addiction prevention services, as FierceHealthPayer: Anti-Fraud reported.   

New York has taken a different tack: To help with prosecutions of crooked doctors and fight fraud in commercial and government insurance programs, the state launched the internet system for tracking overprescribing, or I-STOP, the state Attorney General's office announced

I-STOP made New York the first state to require doctors to check a patient's prescription history on a database before prescribing a schedule II, III or IV controlled drug. The program also requires real-time reporting by pharmacists whenever they fill schedule II, III, IV, or V prescriptions.

New York also became one of the first states to schedule the universal mandate of e-prescribing controlled substances in December 2014. "This will nearly eliminate the problem of forged or stolen prescriptions--used both by addicts and criminal organizations," the announcement stated.

For more:
- here's the WSOC-TV article
- read the NY Attorney General's announcement