Illegally seeking additional prescriptions for pain medication is considered doctor shopping and it’s a serious crime in Texas. Here’s what you need to know.
Prescription drug abuse and misuse are viewed as a major issue for the entire country. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more than 15 million people use prescription drugs for non-medically necessary reasons each year, with opioids and other narcotics topping the list. However, the idea that these people are all getting their drugs from illegal distributors is false. In fact, many of them participate in a form of prescription drug fraud known as doctor shopping. (1)
If you or a loved one are facing prescription drug fraud charges in Texas, including doctor shopping, it’s in your best interest to speak with a knowledgeable Dallas prescription fraud attorney to discuss your legal options.
Doctor Shopping Laws Texas
While the nation itself is facing an opioid crisis, it’s important to look at the different avenues that people take when turning to pain medications. Unfortunately, many individuals become addicted to prescription-only pain medications after suffering an injury or some other physical ailment that results in painkillers being prescribed. Physicians are very well aware of the consequences of prescribing these medications beyond a patient’s needs. This leads some patients to seek out prescriptions from additional care providers. What many of them don’t realize is that according to the doctor shopping laws in Texas, this is a felony.
The term “doctor shopping” can be misleading. It actually has nothing to do with seeking a change in providers. Instead, it’s used to describe the act of visiting multiple healthcare practitioners in an attempt to manipulate the system and receive a greater quantity of prescription pain medications.
For example, if a patient is under one doctor’s care for a back injury and is prescribed a certain amount of narcotic pain medication to relieve their pain, they may attempt to seek out an additional care provider to supply them with an additional amount of medication that their primary physician wouldn’t agree to. It’s also often the case that someone who is doctor shopping might falsify information, including their symptoms and medical history in an attempt to obtain multiple pain medication prescriptions.
While this act might seem fairly innocuous to the person doing it, it’s actually considered a type of prescription drug fraud and carries the possibility of severe penalties.
According to the Texas Health and Safety Code, an individual may be charged if they commit one or more of a number of offenses, including attempting to possess one or more controlled substances in an amount that exceeds what is issued by a singular prescribing physician through deception, forgery or fraud. This also includes acts of falsifying applications, reports or other documents that are used to prescribe or obtain prescription medications. (2)
The Texas Prescription Monitoring Program
In 2012, the Texas Department of Public Safety created an online database that specifically allowed healthcare professionals and law enforcement to have immediate access to information about controlled substances that were prescribed and dispensed to patients. The program was titled “Prescription Access in Texas,” and was the start of the state’s attempt to crack down on doctor shopping. However, new legislation is set to go into effect in 2019 that requires all prescribing physicians to participate in something called the Texas Prescription Monitoring Program.
The new law, which goes into effect on September 1, 2019, legally requires that physicians check each patient’s prescription history within the database for evidence of doctor shopping and other prescription fraud activities. The database must be checked before a doctor can prescribe a benzodiazepine, barbiturate or opioid – such as oxycodone. (3)
The Texas Prescription Monitoring Program is intended to help physicians determine if a patient is at risk of codependence if they are prescribed certain medications, as well as assess the likelihood that the patient has falsified their information with the intent of securing an additional prescription for addictive medications.
With all physicians being required to comply in 2019, the only exceptions being for patients undergoing treatment for cancer or under hospice care, it has become exponentially easier for law enforcement to identify and prosecute anyone suspected of doctor shopping.
Prescription Drug Fraud Penalties
Doctor shopping is considered illegal under both state and federal law. Meaning anyone who is convicted will face penalties for felony prescription drug fraud, and the degree of felony will depend on the schedule listing that the drug falls under.
In some cases, it may be possible for someone convicted of doctor shopping to be sentenced to undergo rehabilitative drug treatment. However, this is typically only an option for a first offense and depends on the severity of fraud that was committed.
Most charges of doctor shopping are second or third-degree felonies. To put the seriousness of these charges in perspective, someone convicted of a third-degree felony can face anywhere from two to ten years in prison, while a second-degree felony carries a potential sentence of anywhere from two to twenty years in prison.
Contacting a Dallas Prescription Fraud Attorney
For anyone facing prescription drug fraud charges, including acts of doctor shopping, it’s important to contact an experienced Dallas prescription fraud attorney to review your case. Doctor shopping is a crime that often isn’t viewed as seriously as it actually is. A qualified defense attorney can assess your situation and develop the best defense for your case.
Broden & Mickelsen
Prior results cannot and do not guarantee or predict a similar outcome with respect to any future case.