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Fraud alert: faxed and emailed scripts

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Warning about increase in Australians using technology to access prescription drugs

Pharmacy indemnity company, PDL, reports of an increase in consumers who are posing as prescribers and using email, fax or mobile phone images to convey a prescription and to fraudulently obtain prescription medications, especially controlled drugs.

A recent example has seen a “prescriber” contact pharmacies to confirm the availability of a specific S8 medicine. They requested an email address to send the “prescription” to the pharmacy. On some occasions, the “prescriber” makes reference to the patient’s health or other medications, which is then verbalised by the “patient” on collection. 

Another method has seen the “patient” fax or email a single prescription to numerous pharmacies to obtain multiple supplies of a medication. On collection, the “patient” or agent is without the original prescription. Invariably, the “prescriber” as shown on the prescription form is unavailable to verify the script.

Receiving a faxed or emailed prescription is common but does require a rigorous process to ensure authenticity.

There are a number of simple steps that can be taken to minimise the risk of falling victim to this fraudulent activity. 

Do not rely solely on copies of a script presented by the consumer over email, fax, SMS or mobile phone photo.

Contact the clinic or prescriber to confirm the prescription. A simple and non-biased way to verify information is by saying, “I’ve just received a fax for your patient Mr X and I wanted to ensure you have our mailing address for the original.” 

Independently source the clinic contact details online and cross check the details on the script, which could be modified.

Ensure the clinic or prescriber provides the original prescription to the pharmacy directly. 

Provide your mailing address directly to the clinic or prescriber – the patient may have given it to the clinic but it may not be correct.

Some State legislation requires a pharmacist to confirm the validity of the prescription if the prescriber is not known to the pharmacist. In cases where confirmation can’t be obtained immediately, the legislation directs a minimal quantity be supplied until confirmation can be provided. Customer identification may be requested by the pharmacist and noted.

PDL advises against dispensing prescriptions presented by a patient/consumer that has been faxed, emailed or sent via SMS, or shown on a mobile phone photo, unless the original is presented at the time of collection.

Case Scenario

An abusive customer demanded the pharmacist dispense a script from a photo on a mobile phone (image above). The aggressive customer stated that a colleague of the pharmacist had dispensed a script for Panadeine Forte from a phone image the day prior.

On reporting this incident, the pharmacist disclosed that she had previously dispensed from a phone image, after she was assured by the “patient” that the original script would be delivered to the pharmacy the next day. Of course it never was.

Our pharmacist has learnt the hard way you can not dispense from an image of a script presented from an unreliable source. Incidents of this nature are surprisingly widespread.

A rule of thumb in pharmacy is not to dispense a script unless you are presented with the original copy or a repeat with an original attached. An exception to this rule is where you have a script faxed or emailed from the doctor. The credentials of the transmitting party would need to be established and an assurance given that the original would be forwarded as soon as practical.

How to respond:

Pharmacy staff should let their employer know if they have concerns. Pharmacists can contact PDL for assistance and further information.

Practice Alert Blog: Faxed and emailed prescriptions

If you have a question relating to this topic or wish to seek advice refer to the support service details below

24/7 Member Support Service 1300 854 838 

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