What Happens When a Pharmacist Steals Drugs?

Prescription drug fraud is a common phenomenon.

Each and every day, people all across the United States commit fraud in an attempt to illegally obtain prescription drugs. Regardless of whether or not the intent is to resell these drugs on the black market, or to use them for personal consumption, a serious crime is being committed.

But what if the crime being committed is happening by parties from within the pharmacy? What if a pharmacist, a tech, or other pharmaceutical professional is still prescription drugs for personal use or to sell? These two distinct acts are referred to as Clinical Drug Diversion and Clinical Drug Theft.

With the opioid crisis in the United States reaching critical mass, law enforcement both in the street and in the courtroom are more sensitive than ever to those who contribute to and benefit from this public health issue — and believe those who do so should be punished accordingly.

How big of a problem is the opioid crisis?

Though prescription drug theft is not limited solely to opiods, it is this distinct category of drug that has greatly contributed to the rise of abuse and even death in the United States over the last several years and is a category of drug identified as the most diverted of all prescription medications.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly half a million people died from opioids (both prescription and street) during the period of 1999 to 2018. Experts cite an increase in the prescription of opioids in the 90s, a rise in heroin use in the 2010s, and an increase in the use of (and death from) fentanyl starting in 2013 as three defining factors that have contributed to this crisis in the US.

What is Clinical Drug Diversion?

Clinical Drug Diversion is the act of diverting a controlled substance that is intended for prescribed, legal use with the intention of consuming and/or selling that substance for personal use or benefit.

This act is illegal and opens up offenders to criminal prosecution, including those related to felony charges.

There are many ways in which drugs can be diverted in a pharmacy setting, including:

Falsifying orders to cover for missing meds

Stealing medication from drug storage areas

Creating fake medication orders for personal use

Tampering with or falsifying records, invoices, or inventory

Due to the potential danger such acts could put patients (such as in cases where the theft of medication can lead to undertreatment) and the risk this places on co-workers and the reputation of the pharmacy, the falsification of records related to Clinical Drug Diversion is considered a felony offense. Assuming a person is accused of and convicted of such a crime, these matters become public record and could very likely tarnish the reputation of the pharmacy and the livelihood of its staff.

Remember: Illegal consumption of prescription drugs is not limited to the layperson.

When one thinks of abuse of illegal and prescription drugs, professionals like pharmacists and their colleagues in the clinic (and other medical specialties) are not typically the first folks that come to mind. However, Clinical Drug Diversion is proof that drug addiction can be rampant in any community.

Research shows that levels of addiction are just as high with medical professionals and workers as they are in other communities, but that these professionals have greater access and more opportunities to secure these drugs than others.

It is estimated that in 2018 healthcare workers diverted nearly a half-billion dollars worth of prescription medication.

Remember, even for pharmacy professionals, it is illegal to possess controlled substances that are not prescribed to you.

You could be charged with crimes such as:

Prescription drug fraud — this can include the falsification of records and can result in years-long prison sentences.

Possession and distribution of a controlled substance
— the severity of these charges is based on the amount you’re accused of having in your possession for distribution, but even smaller amounts can result in hefty fines and prison time.

Prescription drug theft — this charge is not limited to the drugs themselves, but can include items like prescription drug pads used by doctors for prescribing medication to patients. Expect hefty fines and prison time associated with the prosecution of this type of crime.

What should you do if you’ve been charged with stealing drugs from your place of employment?

If you or someone you care about has been accused of crimes related to Clinical Drug Diversion, as soon as you are able, you should seek the counsel of a criminal defense attorney in order to best protect your rights and freedoms protected under the constitution, and

The Law Offices of Robert J. DeGroot is here to help you understand the crimes you’ve been accused of, your legal options, and how we can best work together to protect your freedom.

If you’ve been accused of crimes related to Clinical Drug Diversion, you have a legal battle ahead of you, but you have all the rights and protections as afforded to you by the US Constitution. Our team of legal experts has decades of experience in defending our clients against charges just like these, and we’re prepared to defend your rights, too.

When working with a criminal defense attorney, remember to:

Heed their advice. Their job is to protect your freedom. Help them help you!
Only speak through (and mostly to) your attorney. Any communications not routed through or approved by your attorney can be used against you in court. Take their guidance before speaking to anyone!

Be honest and open with your counsel. The only way we can give you the best defense is if we know every detail that might pertain to your case — even the potentially embarrassing stuff. (Attorney-client privilege means your secrets are protected by law!)

Seek out the best counsel for the charges you’re facing. Look for attorneys that have a proven track record of success related to Clinical Drug Diversion charges.

Make sure you understand the costs and billing related to your counsel. Facing criminal charges is stressful enough without having to deal with unexpected costs related to your counsel. Our firm is proudly transparent with our clients and sets expectations early and accordingly, depending on the level of defense needed.

If you’re considering working with someone who is less than clear in their approach to billing, we recommend finding different, better counsel!

Accused of crimes related to Criminal Drug Diversion?

Let the Law Offices of Robert J. DeGroot show you how we do all we can to protect the freedom and well-being of our clients.
Call us today for a confidential consultation!