October 1, 2014

Medina
Mostly cloudy
53°F

Ohio bill aims to reduce prescription drug fraud

MEDINA — Investigating fraudulent drug prescriptions is tedious work, but a proposal under consideration in the Ohio Legislature aims to speed the process.

“I have to spend hours trying to figure out who picked up those prescriptions,” said J. Tadd Davis, an investigator with the Medina County Drug Task Force. “I might get a picture on video, but then I have to try to figure out who that person is or get a good enough picture to put it in the media.”

Davis said that sort of wasted effort practically would be eliminated by legislation introduced by state Sen. Shannon Jones, R-Springsboro, and Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati.

Ohio Senate Bill 271 would require pharmacies throughout the state to check the ID of anyone who picks up a prescription drug and to keep a record of his or her identity for three years.

The idea of the law is to cut back on fraud that results in illegal trafficking of pharmaceutical drugs like Vicodin, Percocet, Xanex and Adderall, Davis said.

“We’d hate to put more work on these pharmacies,” he said. “They do a lot of work already, but we’re fighting an epidemic.”

According to a Living Well Medina County survey conducted in 2012, 6 percent of county adults in a six-month period used a medication not prescribed to them or took more than prescribed. A fifth of those adults said they misused medication every day and a third said they did so once a month.

In addition, almost half of all emergency room visits across the nation in 2009 were due to misusing prescription painkillers, according to a 2011 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study.

The number of deaths attributed to those drugs each year is greater than deaths from heroin and cocaine combined.

Davis said the law — spearheaded by Dennis Luken, president of the Ohio chapter of the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators — would cut back on the cost to police agencies that look into fraudulent prescriptions and would act as a deterrent to drug traffickers.

“With this kind of law, people might be a reluctant to talk up and lay their identification down,” Davis said. “Is it going to be a solve-all? Absolutely not, but it will help.”

He said Ohio law now requires consumers to show IDs to purchase over-the-counter medicines that could be used to produce illicit drugs, such as methamphetamine. And often customers must sign to pick up prescriptions.

But signing isn’t enough, Davis said, because signatures can be illegible or fake.

Jerry Ritzman, a vice president of the Wadsworth-based Ritzman Pharmacies, said he expects his customers to have more criticism about the law than his workers.

“I see more resistance from our customer and patient base than our pharmacists,” he said. “The regular customer who we see every week might think it seems a bit silly. They might understand why it’s happening, but I think they might think ‘This is getting to be a bit much.’ ”

Ritzman Pharmacies, which has 25 locations across Northeast Ohio, requires customers as store policy to give birthdates for the prescription-holder before they can make purchases, Ritzman said. He worried customers would find it tedious that they’d have to provide an identification card as well.

He said the law may cover ground already tread by a reporting system some pharmacies use, including Ritzman Pharmacies. The system, the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System, tracks how often a person gets prescriptions and from what doctors.

“If a patient comes in, we can see whether the patient has been going to several different doctors and pharmacies,” he said, “and we can refuse to dispense a drug as a result.”

Ritzman said he doesn’t necessarily oppose the bill, but he’d like to see how lawmakers intend to enact and regulate it if it passes.

“The law would be better from my point of view if the bill would give general parameters, and then the specifics would be written by the state Board of Pharmacy with input from law enforcement agencies,” he said. “I’m not sure if that’s been discussed, though.”

In addition, the law would have to address how mail-order prescriptions would be filled. Ritzman said many mail-order drugs are simply dropped off if no one is home, which may cause problems with the proposed law.

If those issued were addressed, he said pharmacists may be able to support such a law.

“Properly written and properly regulated, I think that we could support it,” Ritzman said. “We would definitely do our part to help reduce drug diversion.”

Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com.