Fraudulent prescriptions on the rise

23 May 2019

The Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand (PSNZ) is reporting a significant increase in fraudulent prescriptions, renewing calls for practices to sign up to the NZ ePrescription Service (NZePS).

Recent fraudulent prescription cases: 

  • A patient presented 125 forged prescriptions at pharmacies over the course of 12 months – they obtained 700 codeine, 2000 tramadol and oxycodone. The prescriptions were from 23 different practices and 57 of the dispensings were against a fraudulent prescription.
  • A patient presented a somewhat scrunched-up prescription with a one-month-old expiry date. The pharmacist checked and it had been dispensed by eight pharmacies in the space of a week.
  • A patient presented a single prescription at 21 pharmacies in Auckland and Waikato. Overall there were 60 dispensings across 21 pharmacies before the whistle was blown. You can read about this case on stuff.
PSNZ Chief Executive Richard Townley says the perpetrators are using sophisticated electronic copying technology, but GPs can help put an end to this issue by using the NZePS.

“Prescriptions that’ve come through NZePS have a barcode and can’t be scanned more than once,” says Richard.

All community pharmacies are connected to the NZePS and 75 percent of New Zealand pharmacies are able to scan prescriptions, but according to the Ministry of Health, only 16 percent of practices are using the service. 
“We’d like to see more GPs and practices sign up to this system. There’s no set-up fee and the maximum monthly cost is $135 (depending on the size of the patient list), so it’s a fair investment when you think you’re keeping patients safe and your name and details secure.” We asked College Medical Director Dr Richard Medlicott for his thoughts about the service, and he responded positively saying he’s an advocate.

“I know some practices were concerned about the cost and additional work involved with using the service, but feedback from NZePS users is that they are reducing admin time, which results in cost savings,” says Dr Medlicott. 

“One of the key safety issues here with respect to fraudulent scripts is also one of the key benefits – I haven’t written a controlled drug triplicate form for two years. 
“The time saving for me in the writing and for nurses in reconciliation of controlled drug pads is enormous. We have 12,000 patients and an estimated savings of at least $15,000 each month in terms of time and postage.” “I also want to stress to GPs that using the service will minimise the risk of their name being used fraudulently.”

To get your practice set up with NZePS, please send an expression of interest to the Ministry of Health online helpdesk in the first instance, and they will support you through the next steps.

For more information, check out the NZePS Getting Started Guide.