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In prescription forgery, an individual or group of individuals who are not legally authorized to prescribe drugs obtain them through the use of reproduced or altered prescriptions. Prescription forgery methods vary considerably and may include the theft of prescription pads, the altering or copying of legitimate prescriptions, as well as the use of accessories who might pose as physicians or physician office staff during attempts by pharmacy workers to verify the validity of a prescription. Prescription forgery is often considered a serious offense, with many jurisdictions imposing harsh punishments against people who engage in medical forgery. In many cases, this crime is committed by drug addicts who consume the medications themselves, though some forgers may also sell the medication to others.
One of the most common forms of prescription forgery is the writing of fake prescriptions. A forger may steal a prescription pad from a medical clinic or doctor's office, copy a prescription blank, or even attempt to print up his own prescription form. Since doctors and other health care professionals who are permitted by law to prescribe medications use a distinctive shorthand in the composing of a prescription, a forger may attempt to learn this lingo, though she may be able to simply copy what her doctor has written on previous, legitimate prescriptions. Another method of prescription forgery is the altering of a legitimate prescription. An alteration may include a change in the amount of medication to be included in the prescription or the name of the person to whom the medication was prescribed.
Efforts by the medical profession, pharmacies, and governments to quell prescription forgery include a variety of tactics to both discourage forgers and to discover their activities. As prescription forgery often involves the alteration or tampering with a prescription blank, some jurisdictions now require doctors to obtain special tamper-proof prescription pads. Blanks from these pads may have a distinctive background that cannot be reproduced on a copy machine or include watermarks that a pharmacy employee can check to make sure that the prescription is genuine. Prescription forgery laws may also require printing companies to receive special permission from a regulatory board before producing prescription pads for doctors and medical facilities.
In response to these measures, some prescription forgers set up elaborate schemes for obtaining their drugs. As many pharmacies contact doctors' offices to confirm the legitimacy of a prescription for drugs that have a high potential for abuse, some fake prescription pads include a phone number that is allegedly for the prescribing doctor's office but is instead answered by the forger's accomplice. To thwart these schemes, some doctors now submit prescriptions electronically to drugstores, removing patient access to the physical prescription from the process.