Scammers turn to medicine! - Conmen filling prescriptions at a fraction of the cost
A criminal gang operating out of downtown Kingston is offering to fill prescriptions at a fraction of the cost, with the only drawback being that the medications are not done in the name of the person they are prescribed to.
A Sunday Gleaner probe has found that the fraudsters will take the legitimate prescription, have it rewritten in another name and signed by a doctor, then use a health card to fill the prescription for up to 50 per cent less.
In one case last week, a visitor to downtown Kingston entered a pharmacy where he was told that the prescribed medicine would cost just over $9,000. Not having that amount of cash, the person left the pharmacy, where he was immediately approached by a man who offered to fill the prescription for him for under $6,000.
The prescription was then done over, allegedly by a prominent Corporate Area medical doctor, in a new name and filled by the fraudster, who claimed that he had to pay the doctor - an associate, take a cut for himself, and still delivered the prescribed medication in full, all for the $6,000.
When our news team contacted the doctor whose name appeared on the new prescription, he denied all knowledge of the document and said he would never have done such a thing.
"I know definitely I did not write that prescription. I would never write over a prescription in someone else's name," said the doctor who could face major criminal charges if he is found to be involved.
That was confirmed by Dr Shane Alexis, president of the Medical Association of Jamaica, who told The Sunday Gleaner that if a doctor was to engage in such an activity it would be fraudulent.
"That would be a case of insurance fraud, but it is not clear that the doctor in this case had anything to do with it. But nonetheless, we caution and warn our members that it is important to stick to the laws that govern the medical practice and the arrangements with the insurance companies," said Alexis.
He argued that the way the system now operates, it is not difficult for prescription fraud to be committed, as information on doctors is public knowledge.
"The problem of identity theft is a major concern, and it is something that is an ongoing discussion point when we meet with health insurance companies and discuss these matters
"Our names being gazetted in terms of the Medical Registry makes us a relatively easy target. For example, it would be difficult to impersonate a police officer, because we don't know all their names, but doctors must appear on a roll."
Chairman of the Medical Council of Jamaica, Dr John Hall, agreed that the gazetting of doctors makes it easier for their identities to be stolen, and conceded that it is of great concern that the public is possibly being exposed to fake doctors.
"The fact that people know who the doctors are by name does help, so I am not surprised to learn that there are scams out there," said Hall.
"The council, as a regulatory body, is even more concerned, because that is our role,
to ensure that ethical and
professional conduct is maintained and that John Public is protected from any pretending practitioner."
Acting registrar at the Pharmacy Council of Jamaica, Radcliffe Goulbourne, said its members sometimes come across questionable prescriptions, and red flags are raised when this happens.
"The Pharmacy Council has been informed in the past of prescriptions found in the trade that were of questionable nature. When this information is received a red flag is usually raised and the stakeholders alerted to be highly vigilant," said Goulbourne.
By law, prescriptions must have the date, the name, age and address of the person for whom they are issued; the name, the generic name, and the quantity of the substance to be supplied; adequate directions for the use of the substance prescribed; the usual signature of the prescriber and his name in legible print form.
Also required is the address, telephone number and registration number of the prescriber, where the prescription is given by a registered dentist or registered veterinary surgeon or veterinary practitioner, the words "for dental treatment only" or "for treatment of animals only", as the case may require."
Goulbourne expressed that once all the required boxes have been checked, it would be difficult for a pharmacist to determine that a prescription is forged.
"It wouldn't be the role of the pharmacist to go and find out if the name on it (prescription) is for the person who is going to be taking it, and those sort of things," Goulbourne pointed out.