Message from the Ministry of Health - Forged prescriptions

Fentanyl patches and oxycodone tablets together make up more than 50% of forgeries reported in the last 12 months, with benzodiazepines coming in next, such as alprazolam making up 9%.

When dispensing a prescription for a Schedule 8 medicine, a pharmacist must verify that the person who is purported to have issued the prescription has actually issued the prescription, unless the pharmacist is familiar with the handwriting of the prescriber, or the patient is known to the pharmacist. If the prescription must be verified but cannot be verified, the pharmacist may supply a quantity sufficient for no more than 2 days’ treatment.

A pharmacist must exercise adequate professional judgement when dispensing a prescription without verifying its legitimacy with the prescriber. For example, dispensing on the basis that the patient has previously had one or more prescriptions dispensed at the pharmacy, may not be sufficient to discharge the pharmacist’s obligation to verify the legitimacy of the prescription.

A pharmacist should be alert to unusual presentations, such as when the patient and purported prescriber are from well outside the area of the pharmacy and the prescriber is unknown. Pharmacists should also be aware that some prescription stationery is printed with a false name, address or telephone number of the prescriber. Care should be taken when contacting a purported prescriber using the telephone number provided on the prescription, as this may not be the number of the registered health practitioner shown on the prescription. This is particularly the case with only a mobile telephone number provided. A prescriber's name may be checked on the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency Register of Practitioners, and the practice address and telephone number should be verified independently through other published sources, by contacting the landline telephone number associated with the practice address.

If the pharmacist has determined that a prescription for a Schedule 4 Appendix D or a Schedule 8 medicine has been forged or fraudulently obtained, or if the prescription appears to have been altered otherwise than by the authorised practitioner by whom it was issued, the pharmacist must retain the prescription and report the incident to a police officer.

Whilst it is not mandatory to report lost, stolen or forged prescriptions under the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act 1966, you may help reduce the trafficking of drugs of abuse, such as fentanyl, oxycodone and alprazolam, sourced through fraudulent prescriptions, by submitting a Notification Form of Lost, Stolen or Forged Prescription to the Ministry of Health.