Prescription Fraud A Big Problem - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

07/21/04 - Nacogdoches

Prescription Fraud A Big Problem

by Donna McCollum

The arrest of a university police corporal and his siblings for selling prescribed medications on the street illustrates how even doctors can be fooled by their patients. The illegal sell of prescription narcotics is such a big problem that medical professionals must remain on high alert.

A month rarely goes by for Nacogdoches pharmacist Wes Wisener that he doesn't detect or suspect prescription fraud. "It's usually pain medication, anxiety medication, drugs that have a lot of street potential abuse," said Wisener.

Wisener and the techs who work with him are fairly good detectives. Computer programs allow them to check for frequent refills at that particular pharmacy and complete histories can be run on insured customers. Unfortunately, not all methods of prescription fraud is as easy to detect.

"Physicians and pharmacies aren't really linked in any manner. A patient can use one pharmacy in one town and another pharmacy in other town. The same way with physicians. They can see a doctor in Nacogdoches, a doctor in Lufkin, a doctor in Houston," explained Wisener.

The same kind of practice is what narcotic investigators suspect O.D. Sterns, Levern Sirls, Rose Etta Sterns and George Washington Sterns were doing conducting a similar practice.

Nacogdoches County Sheriff Thomas Kerss says there's evidence showing prescriptions were obtained from multiple doctors in Lufkin and San Augustine.

Dr. George Hugman III said, "There's no real way that I would know what another physician may have prescribed." Yet the Nacogdoches physician tries to be aware of the red flags. "If you have a patient that's preoccupied with the narcotics and yet not very interested in pursuing the cause of their pain then that can tip you off to someone who may be using the medications inappropriately or may be diverting them into sell on the street."

As medical professionals, Hugman and Wisener know to maintain a level of privacy with their customers, but when it comes to someone potentially breaking the law they're obligated to report their findings.

According to Dr. Hugman, the Drug Enforcement Agency requires a triplicate prescription for the most abused prescription medications so they can be tracked by the Department of Public Safety. However, there are many other less potent, but potentially abusable medications that don't fall under a tracking system.

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