6 Tips Pharmacist Can Use to Stay Vigilant

Prescription narcotic drug abuse is on the rise in Georgia. Sadly, three-quarters of the accidental drug-related deaths in Georgia were from prescription drug overdose, according to a report from The Georgia Bureau of Investigation's Medical Examiner Office. The narcotics are almost always obtained with a prescription.

Identifying patients that exhibit drug-seeking behavior has become a major issue for medical professionals. Likewise, prescription theft is also on the rise, and pharmacists should be vigilant for this method of drug acquisition.

Simply stated, a prescription does not mean a pharmacist is clear.

Federal law states that "The responsibility for the proper prescribing and dispensing of controlled substances is upon the practitioner, bit a corresponding responsibility rests with the pharmacist who fills the prescription." Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations, §1306.04(a)).

In short, you as a pharmacist are responsible. You could be charged with a felony count of "knowingly and intentionally distributing controlled substances" in an illegal manner.

To this end, it is important to know that you are not required to fill a prescription of "doubtful, questionable or suspicious origin." (DEA rule) The Texas pharmacy board has this brochure that explains your rights in more detail under federal regulation and law.

Also, here are a few tips to help you stay vigilant:

  • Do you know the person getting the prescription? Do you know the person picking it up?
  • Does the person request early refills?
  • Is the person getting prescriptions from several medical care providers?
  • Is the person getting the prescription local or from a long way off?
  • Is the health care provider sending in an unusual number of narcotics prescriptions?
  • Does the prescription come from a long distance from the pharmacy?

No doubt you can come up with some other telltale indicators of possible abuse.

As part of the education effort, the Georgia Pharmacy Foundation has joined forces with other groups to support the Medical Association of Georgia's Think About It Campaign at rxdrugabuse.org.

Advise your customers about approved disposal locations for expired medications. You can get a list of drop points at police and sheriff's departments across the state at http://www.stoprxabuseinga.org/.

The ramifications of prescription drug abuse are wide ranging and, as a pharmacist, you play an important role in preventing drug abuse. Also, as the state and federal government struggle to find ways to slow the flow of prescription drugs to abusers, it is important to stay abreast of current laws and regulation to ensure that you remain compliant.