Hollywood Prescription Drug Abuse —Illegal Drug Rackets and “Doctor Shopping”

In a blog from last week, our Washington-D.C. area Pharmacy Error Attorneys at Lebowitz and Mzhen covered the topic of illegal prescription drugs, after a Maryland pharmacist was sentenced to federal prison for selling illegal painkillers to a drug dealer—drugs that were meant to be used under the supervision of a doctor, that could lead to personal injury, drug overdose and death.

According to the Baltimore Sun, prescription drugs are currently the number one cause of death overdose in the country. The Office of National Drug Policy claims that in his past year of drug abuse, prescription pain killers now rank second, behind marijuana as the nation’s most prevalent illegal drug problem. The National Institute of Medicine reports that 20 percent of people in the United States have used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons, leading to addiction.

In a recent Hollywood tragedy, Corey Haim, star of the 80’s film The Lost Boys, died in what officials from the Los Angeles Police Department claim was an accidental overdose of prescription drugs. After an investigation, Haim’s name surfaced in connection with an illegal prescription drug ring in Southern California with the painkiller OxyContin. The drug ring was linked to as many as 5,000 prescriptions—by ordering prescription pads from authorized vendors and stealing doctors’ identities.

Prescription drug overdose has been ruling news headlines over the past few years, after deaths of high profile celebrities like Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger, Anna Nicole Smith.

Many addicts are reportedly getting their prescriptions drugs by “doctor shopping,” or going from doctor to doctor to collect prescriptions. According to the Sun, Maryland needs a system to monitor the number of prescriptions that are written for every patient, which if abused by “doctor shopping” can lead to medication error and injury. The Sun calls for Maryland Legislators to set up a drug task force to better monitor and control this drug epidemic.

Investigators in Haim’s case found that from February to March of this year, Haim had secured over 553 tablets of powerful prescription medication—195 Valium tablets, 194 Soma tablets, 149 tablets of Vicodin, and 15 Xanax tablets. Haim also reportedly had obtained a prescription pad that allowed him to illegally forge a physician’s signature to acquire drugs.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown stated that Haim visited physician’s offices, emergency rooms, urgent-care facilities—any place he could continue to collect the prescription pills, as well as obtaining drugs illegally—practices that could lead to medication error, or in Haim’s case, death.

Cracking Down on Prescription Drug Abuse, The Baltimore Sun, April 07, 2010
Corey Haim Deemed “Poster Child” for Drug Addiction, E! News Online, April 6, 2010
Corey Haim Obtained 553 Pills Before He Died, The Los Angeles Times, April 6, 2010
Pharmacist Gets Six Years for Selling to Drug Dealer, The Baltimore Sun, April 10, 2010

Related Web Resources:

National Institute of Medicine: Prescription Drug Abuse

White House Drug Policy: Office of Drug Control Policy

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