Is Doctor Shopping Illegal?
“Doctor shopping” is the practice of an individual visiting multiple healthcare physicians to deceptively obtain prescriptions for controlled substances. There are many classes of controlled substances sought by those who doctor shop. However, opioid narcotics (pain killers) are the number one target by far according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These narcotics primarily include Morphine, OxycContin, Percocet, Valium, Vicodin, or Xanax.
“Doctor Shoppers” visit multiple healthcare physicians and provide false information to obtain multiple prescriptions. Common practices include lying about symptoms; false claims of not receiving or losing prior medications; non-disclosure of prescriptions by other physicians; and denying other prescriptions. In extreme cases, they may intentionally injure themselves to obtain prescriptions.
Patients who doctor shop may not fully realize they are breaking the law. They may admit to “bending the truth” to get medication. The practice of doctor shopping is illegal in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and under federal law. The practice is considered a type of prescription fraud. The laws of each state vary slightly, but according to the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, it is illegal for a person to “acquire or obtain possession of a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception, or subterfuge.”
Last year, Governor Roy Cooper signed into law The Strengthen Opioid Misuse Prevention (STOP) Act of 2017, to reduce the supply of misused, unused and diverted opioids in North Carolina. This Act seeks to reduce doctor shopping by requiring prescribers to use the NC Controlled Substances Reporting System (NCCSRS) to review a patient’s one-year history before issuing an initial prescription for a Schedule II or Schedule III opioid. Providers must also review the database, every three months thereafter, for as long as the patient continues to be prescribed the drug.
So, what happens if you are accused of doctor shopping? The act of doctor shopping is considered a felony. A conviction could result in a multi-thousand dollar fine and several years in prison. Because doctor shopping is often the result of an opioid addiction, prosecutors and judges often consider a ‘diversion program’ alternative that may include an in-patient treatment program rather than an active prison sentence. However, this option is typically for first time offenders only.
The punishment for doctor shopping can vary depending on prior offenses, the scope of the crime and other indications. “Doctor shopping” is a serious crime and should not be taken lightly. If you have been accused of doctor shopping or prescription fraud, it is in your best interest to contact The Robinson Law Firm of Greenville, NC immediately. We are experienced and committed to providing you the best defense possible. Call us today to schedule your free consultation.