A Real Life Dr. Feelgood
Suppose you could make $25 for signing your name…
A recent report on CNN laid out how an online Pharmacy can skirt the law and rake in huge money. All they really need is a physician willing to sign prescriptions without examining patients.
This was Dr. Morrow’s role. At 73, the semi-retired physician was asked to authorize prescription medications based on forms that ‘patients’ filled out online. The pharmacy did the rest. At even $25 a script and an average of $500 a day, that amounts to $150,000 a year – not bad for signing your name.
CNN’s investigation extends back to 2008, when they first looked at how online pharmacies operate. Since then, federal agents duplicated the method and obtained enough evidence to prosecute. The essentials of the operation go like this:
- * Advertise heavily on the Internet and through partner pharmacies who follow a similar pattern.
- * Get patients to fill out a form that details their medical condition – no physical exam required!
- * Charge patients cash for prescriptions written by your in-house doctor.
- * Refuse to accept insurance and charge inflated prices.
- * Stay away from highly controlled drugs that are watched carefully by the DEA.
Why no insurance?
Insurance companies track the medications they pay for. When someone is abusing a prescription drug, they will often notify the prescribing doctor and pharmacy, expecting these professionals to take action. By charging cash and telling patients to bill their own insurance companies, patients quickly become aware of the unspoken rule – keep this off the books. This tends to filter out any legitimate patients and leaves those that are willing to pay inflated prices to get what they crave.
At $100 for a prescription that might otherwise cost $10 to $15, there is a huge profit margin, and a huge temptation for someone with a license to turn a blind eye to what’s going on and keep signing their name.
A new niche for addiction
Because some of the drugs are not classified as habit forming, it is expected that other operations will stay under the radar. Drugs mentioned in this report include Prozac, Tramadol, and Soma. These are not considered as addictive as, for example, opiates like Oxycodone.
By dispensing these types of drugs in what amounts to an unregulated manner, these pharmacies might be creating a class of patients who self-medicate for imagined ills. Sidestepping the key supervision of an attending physician means they can take whatever appeals to them and whatever they can pay for.
Soma, for example, is a muscle relaxer that is not considered highly addictive. But addicts will take it with other drugs (legal and illegal) to improve their buzz. There seems to be no real reason for anyone to pay these outrageous prices unless they are intending to abuse the drugs.
How many of the customers are actually even real people? No one knows. If a 16 year-old wants to play, they only have to copy mom or dad’s driver’s license and get the cash.
The bottom line is that Dr. Feelgood and the partner pharmacy are filling an new niche – drug dealing by mail order.