Dr. Andrew Sun was recently convicted of 14 counts of narcotics distribution and sentenced to five years in prison. Over the past three years, Sun has written 24,000 prescriptions 90% of which were for Vicodin and Xanax, a powerful cocktail when mixed often used by addicts. At his Los Angeles drug crime hearing, the prosecution claimed that five of Sun’s patients died from prescription drug overdoses, including a man who had received a prescription from Sun for over two years.
Despite the $1.1 million that Sun made through his prescriptions, he maintained a simple lifestyle. Sun asked for leniency based on his long career and his service in the Air Force, but his request was denied. Another appeal was based on his age, claiming that the 79-year old doctor’s behavior radically changed when he turned seventy, citing possible senility as the cause.
The Center for Disease Control is calling the drug problem in America an epidemic, claiming that drugs kill one person every fourteen minutes. Painkillers are responsible for more of these deaths than cocaine and heroin combined.
It is hard to track the exact occurrences of prescription drug fraud as there are so many other related issues. Pharmaceutical theft is one such problem, as is drug sharing after a legitimate prescription has been issued. Despite these complicating factors, it is clear that the number of fraudulent prescriptions is on the rise and needs to be addressed.
In addition to medical complications and deaths arising from the misuse of prescription drugs, studies show that addiction to prescription drugs increases the risk of other substance abuse. Fraudulently prescribed drugs allegedly cost private insurance companies $857 million every year.
Unlike other drug-related crimes, prescription drug fraud covers all age and ethnic categories, making it very hard to pin down who the abusers are. Often those who seek to obtain fraudulent prescriptions became addicted after receiving prescription drugs for a legitimate medical need and then later must obtain them illegally in order to feed this addiction.
Although doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers are in a prime position to divert prescription drugs, either to feed their own drug habit or to sell to others, not all fraudulent prescriptions come from a doctor. Patients can alter their prescriptions to obtain more pills, stealing blank prescription pads, or place false calls to pharmacies claiming to be healthcare workers.
Doctor shopping is another method by which people obtain prescription drugs for nonmedical use. A patient will visit multiple doctors and obtain prescriptions from all of them. Proposals have been made to communicate with doctors more openly so that they have a better opportunity to become aware of other doctors writing prescriptions for the same patients.
The Center for Disease Control reports that deaths from prescription drug overdoses have tripled in the last decade. They estimate that 12 million Americans are taking these drugs without a prescription or with a fraudulent prescription.
If you have been charged with a drug offense in Los Angeles County, call to obtain a free case evaluation from an experienced drug crime defense attorney. Day or night, you can expect a live person to assist you and help provide you with the information you’re looking for.