Incidents of pharmaceutical fraud are increasing with every passing minute. The industry, particularly in North America has faced a lot of scandals thanks to these criminal and fraudulent activities. The existence of online pharmacies that have become popular because they offer prescription medication at reduced prices is not helping matters. Online pharmacies have increased the number of people who buy prescription drugs without a prescription and the sale of counterfeit or low quality medication.
It has therefore become of paramount importance to check the credibility of an online pharmacy and its legitimacy before buying any medication from them. In this article, we will share with you exactly how to determine if an online pharmacy is legitimate.
Pharmacy Fraud Attorneys
The pharmaceutical industry is big business in the U.S. and Canada. The moniker “Big Pharma” is well earned when you consider that the industry rakes in more than $300 billion a year. A larger portion of this revenue comes from health insurance companies although there are several less than legitimate ways these companies increase their profits. These include the following:
- They can replace a cheap drug with a more expensive drug for the same ailment
- They can also bill branded drugs at the same price as generic ones
- Increase the price of a drug to up to 1000%
There have been numerous scandals exposing these pharmaceutical companies. But perhaps the most memorable was the case of Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO, Martin Shkreli who raised the price of a much needed drug from $13.50 to $750. Yet he only represents the few who get caught and have to face justice. Many will often only get away with paying hefty fines that they can afford anyway.
Off-Label Marketing Fraud
The FDA will often conduct extensive research on any drug introduced into the market to ensure that it is effective for the intended use and that it will not be harmful to the public. Only after the drug has received FDA approval can it be available to the public. Yet, some companies will market a drug for a use other than the intended use. This is often known as off-label marketing.
One of the most notable examples of this type of fraud came in 2012 when Abbott Laboratories was fined $1.6 billion for marketing a drug the FDA had approved to treat bipolar mania, epilepsy and migraines as treatment for dementia and schizophrenia.
This is another illegal practice that the patients are often aware of. The problem is that many of them are unaware that it is illegal. In this one, the pharmaceutical company enters into an agreement with the doctor to only prescribe their brands as opposed to other similar medication by their competitors. The doctors and health practitioners in this case often get a commission and the company gains a competitive edge. Not only is this practice highly immoral and illegal, it can lead to patients getting low quality medication. Pfizer had to pay a $23.85 million fine to settle charges that it had been offering Medicare patients illegal kickbacks to purchase their drugs.
Good Manufacturing Practices
Pharmaceutical companies are also required to maintain Good Manufacturing Practices when manufacturing drugs. Yet, there are some companies that fail to comply with regulation, resulting in less than effective and sometimes addictive medication. World leader, GlaxoSmithKline is only one of the many that had to pay a hefty fine for failing to meet these regulatory standards.
Some pharmacies also engage in the illegal behavior of providing patients with a lower number of pills than the prescribed amount, even as they bill Medicaid for the full amount. Where do the rest of the pills go, you ask? Well, they are sold to criminals, addicts and other individuals who may need to purchase the medication without a prescription.
Automatic refills can be a great service for patients who have to take medication for a long period of time. The problem is sometimes the patient may fail to collect the refill or forget to cancel the service. But the pharmacy will bill the insurance company for the medications anyway.
Medication without Prescription
There are a lot of pharmacies, especially online pharmacies that are willing to sell medications without a prescription. Usually these sites will attract a lot of people who want to purchase prescription medication like Opioids for illegal use. Using these drugs for recreational rather than media use can lead to sever health issues and addiction. Online pharmacy reviews can help you determine genuine pharmacies to buy from and which ones to avoid.
Penalties for Pharmacy Fraud
From the examples we have seen, the government can take action against pharmaceutical companies seen to engage in fraudulent behavior. At the same time, pharmacies caught engaging in these activities are liable to lose their licenses. They can get a Maximum of 5 years in prison or a $25,000 fine if they are found guilty of defrauding Medicaid or any other government healthcare program.
Responsibilities of Healthcare Professionals
The abuse of prescription drugs is not just a serious crime, it is also very dangerous. The misuse of such drugs has led to serious healthcare issues including addiction and fatalities. It is therefore the responsibility of every health care professional who has taken an oath to preserve human life to prescribe medications only as needed and according to the law. As tempting as it may, taking a bribe from any pharmaceutical company to prescribe only their drugs is dangerous for your patients. It is also the responsibility of every health professional to educate their patients about the dangers of purchasing medication without a prescription.
You should always exercise the highest level of care and vigilance when buying medication. Only purchase prescription drugs with a prescription from your doctor and avoid using medication recreationally. If you must purchase medication online, check online pharmacy reviews to ensure you are buying from a legitimate online pharmacy.