How to exonerate yourself from being falsely accused of altering a prescription.
December 25, 2005 11:26 PM   Subscribe

My wife is being falsely accused of falsifying a prescription. She is absolutely innocent, but the situation is complicated and her doctor's office manager is blatantly trying to get her into trouble.

My wife has a condition that requires the use of pain medication. Her doctor is an octogenarian who is quite forgetful (we've had to go back to his office for him to correct mistakes or blank spaces on her script in the past). He usually writes her a script containing three medications, one of which is Norco: a pain medication containing hydrocodone. He always circles 5 refills for the Norco.

Last month, while writing her script, he forgot to add one of the three medications, however, he did write down the Norco with 5 refills. When my wife discovered that he'd forgotten one of the meds, she went back to his office. He asked for the script back, and wrote a new one containing the three meds, however, this time he forgot to circle the 5 refills. When my wife was about to hand in the script at the pharmacy, she noticed his blunder, and stupidly circled the "5" refills herself. The pharmacy faxed a copy of the script back to the Dr.'s office for confirmation, and the office manager (let's call her "Sue), who had a run in with my wife a few months ago, noticed the discrepancy and notified the Dr. who mailed my wife a letter informing her of what she'd done, and giving her until the 15th of December to find another physician. We went to the Dr.'s office to rectify the situation, but Sue would not let us see him, and admitted in front of me that the Dr. had indeed forgotten to circle the 5, but that he was sensitive to this sort of thing, and would terminate her regardless. She said this sort of thing happens all the time with patients, and they terminate them without pursuing any legal action. We accepted this, and left the office.

Cut to Thursday, when I went to pick up the last refill on a previous script that the Dr. had written. When I approached the pharmacist's window and asked to pick up the meds, I was approached by two police officers who said the pharmacy had contacted the Dr.'s office, and had been informed that there were no refills on that script and that it had been falsified! The cops questioned me for an hour, going as far as frisking me and searching my car, and saying they'd investigate this.

Upon returning home my wife called the Dr.'s office to resolve the matter, as this script was completely kosher and had been issued a couple months before, and we'd picked up the previous refills with no problem. To our shock, Sue claimed she had the copy in front of her, and it showed no refills! She went on to call my wife a fraud and gloatingly tell her that she was in for a world of trouble. I ABSOLUTELY believe my wife when she says she did not alter the script, and the only way this Sue (who I'm beginning to suspect of being a psychopath) can prove her point is by altering or destroying their copy. Since my wife is not allowed to see this Dr. anymore, I've scheduled an appointment with him for Tuesday, during which I want to explain the situation to him, and ask him to review the records himself as his office manager is suspect. I'm hoping he gives me a chance and doesn't refuse to discuss it or kick me out. In any case, I'm absolutely positive their copy of the script will show the 5 refills (unless it's been altered, which should be detectable anyway). This Sue just finally found an innocent yet dumb act on the part of my wife, and is now trying to extend it to the other script and make her life hell around Christmas. Everything I've written is the absolute truth, and I just want to know what recourse we have. Thank you very much for any suggestions or hints, and I'm sorry for being so longwinded.

(Incidentally, almost every script the Dr. has written her in the past has the same three meds, with 5 refills for the Norco)
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (55 answers total)
 
First, talk to a lawyer immediately. From those cops' point of view, your wife is suspected of fraud and probably drug dealing, and that car search means they are now building a case against both of you. Bad things can happen fast and out of your control if you assume that you can fix this without legal advice.

Second, don't communicate with the doctor or his office manager verbally, but by letter - preferably certified - and keep a copy. Or, better, have the lawyer do it. Describe everything that happened, including the prior ugliness between your wife and his office manager; be completely honest and admit that your wife just assumed that since "No refills" wasn't circled, that he'd meant to circle "5" as usual.

You could tell him you've sent a copy to whatever office regulates medical professionals where you are, but that might just make it more likely that he'll back up his office manager, so I think you should hold off. But do include copies of all the previous prescriptions - this will show that you're prepared to make your case.

And, find another doctor.
posted by nicwolff at 11:55 PM on December 25, 2005


Or, better, have the lawyer do it. Describe everything that happened, including the prior ugliness between your wife and his office manager; be completely honest and admit that your wife just assumed that since "No refills" wasn't circled, that he'd meant to circle "5" as usual.

Sound advice, but before you do the 2nd sentence, make sure to read the first. In other words, honesty is probably a good policy, but check with a lawyer first! Especially with drug crime, it seems like the legal system has a reputation (perhaps undeserved) of ignoring common sense and playing it by the book -- "Defendant admitted forging the script", circumstances be damned. So if it's as serious a deal as it sounds, it would probably be worth seeking legal advice.
posted by SuperNova at 12:03 AM on December 26, 2005


"I ABSOLUTELY believe my wife when she says she did not alter the script"

But you said she did.

"and stupidly circled the "5" refills herself"

Get a lawyer.
posted by raaka at 12:17 AM on December 26, 2005


It IS a felony to alter a perscription. The judge WILL have to decide. Your wife's lawyer WILL have a terrible headache when you tell him you asked for advice on the internet, in a public forum. Luckily for you, it's like third hand heresay at this point. See if you can delete this thread before it becomes too well known. CYA at all times. BTW, any contact with the Doc should be from a lawyer. The act is done, at this point. The Police HAVE been notified. Circle your wagons. It's probably only a second or third degree felony, but a FELONY, all the same.
posted by FredsinPa at 12:34 AM on December 26, 2005


P.S. Altering a perscription is in NO WAY fraud. It's a NARCOTICS violation. Sorry, nicwolff, whole different section of the law. Kinda like what Jeb Bush's little girl went to jail for, except she only wrote xanax, IIRC?
posted by FredsinPa at 12:38 AM on December 26, 2005


It's interesting that you would be visiting an 80+ year old doctor who can't even remember the scripts he writes. I'm assuming you're not really looking for medical care, just a rubber stamp for medications you know (or feel) you should be taking.

Can you afford a lawyer right now? If the police do decide to press charges then the state will be required to provide a lawyer for you. If you can afford a lawyer, then definitely get one. You should be able to get a free consultation, however it definitely won't be cheap.

If I were in your position (being in chronic pain and requiring opiate pain killers) I'd seriously consider moving to Canada. You can get hydocodine OTC. The DEA is really going nuts trying to prevent doctors from 'over prescribing' opiates here, so many doctors are afraid to proscribe it in 'edge' cases.

Having a felony conviction will make this more difficult.
posted by delmoi at 12:47 AM on December 26, 2005


P.S. Altering a perscription is in NO WAY fraud. It's a NARCOTICS violation. Sorry, nicwolff, whole different section of the law.

It's both fraud and a narcotics violation.
posted by delmoi at 12:48 AM on December 26, 2005


"I ABSOLUTELY believe my wife when she says she did not alter the script"

But you said she did.

"and stupidly circled the "5" refills herself"


There are two different prescriptions involved.

The first one, she admits she's guilty of altering.

The second one she didn't, we must assume, alter. The receptionist, we must assume, is making a false accusation. But it's essentially the same crime as the one she has admitted to. "Admitted to" at second hand, here, that is.

Get a lawyer, and stop admitting to things, seem to be the consensus.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 12:53 AM on December 26, 2005


Ideally you should avoid talking to the police at all, however if you show them all the previous scripts (you have copies, right) and show them the other original script that you think the office lady is lying about they might decide not to prosecute you.

However, you should absolutely expect them to lie to you in order to get you to say something incriminating.
posted by delmoi at 12:54 AM on December 26, 2005


The intent to pay for whatever was received was there. No fraud. Circumventing Federal narcotics laws, though...,
posted by FredsinPa at 1:01 AM on December 26, 2005


The intent to pay for whatever was received was there. No fraud.

In California you can get a marriage annulled for reasons of "fraud" (which Renée Zellweger just did). Any alteration of documents is fraud, surely you're not suggesting that you can buy and sell brides in CA.

From dictionary.com
fraud
1. A deception deliberately practiced in order to secure unfair or unlawful gain.


As in, unlawfully gaining drugs she wouldn't have otherwise gotten.

Here's a bit of the US code that refers to 'fraudulent' action in regards to prescriptions (specifically prescriptions around the U.S. Embassy and other 'consular districts' in China)

---

As far as what violations are what, (Fraud or narcotics or what) It really only has to do with how the police handle the case. Crimes are crimes, and torts are torts, and that's about it. There's no practical legal distinction between "NARCOTICS" AND "FRAUD" or "WHATEVER". In many cases fraud could be worse then a narcotics problem, such as fraudulently working as a doctor, vs. having an 8th of weed.
posted by delmoi at 2:12 AM on December 26, 2005


In any event, I do know the difference between prescription and proscription, although I apparently typed in the wrong word in that post. I'm not quite sure what point your trying to make.
posted by delmoi at 2:15 AM on December 26, 2005


And neither is innocently trying to correct your 80 year old Doctor's mistakes of omission, if you do it with a clean heart. HOWEVER, altering a Federal narcotics form does NOT take into account your motivation. Had she done the same on a note to her mother from the Doctor, where drug laws do NOT apply, fraud would not have even been an issue. She only wished to purchase five times the amount at the given price. Narcotics issues aside, had she purchased chewing gum on a note from her mother, rather than a prescription from a doctor, no crime would have been committed, even if she had crossed out the ONE her mother had written, substituted FIVE, and kept the other four packs for herself. AGAIN, no fraud. Would but it were only fraud. This girl has comitted a friggin' FELONY. What kinda lawyer do you claim to be?
posted by FredsinPa at 3:08 AM on December 26, 2005


Read this and get back to me, huh?

http://www.dea.gov/pubs/csa.html

As far as MeFi goes, any arguments we make may be useful to her lawyer, don't you agree?
posted by FredsinPa at 3:16 AM on December 26, 2005


For those too time constrained to read the referenced page in it's entirety, that's the DEA's take on the Controlled Substance Act. It IS a Federal offence to obtain opiates under false pretences. DUH?
posted by FredsinPa at 3:19 AM on December 26, 2005


FredsinPa : "Again, WHO was defrauded?"

Just to squelch this offtopic here: the pharmacy. The pharmacy accepts the prescription from the buyer with the belief that the contents represent the accurate intent of the prescribing authority. As presented, the scrip didn't indicate 5 refills. Circling it yourself is taking advantage over another (the pharmacy) "by false suggestions".
posted by Gyan at 3:20 AM on December 26, 2005


Correction : As presented, to the patient,
posted by Gyan at 3:22 AM on December 26, 2005


FredsinPa: The question was wether it was a violation of federal law to alter a prescription. I said I don't think so. You post a link to the an index of the entire CSA and say "read this"? WTF kind of argument is that? Can you point to a specific passage that proscribes specifically altering a prescriptions outside of U.S. consular districts in China?
posted by delmoi at 3:26 AM on December 26, 2005


Schedule of Controlled Substances is a Federal function. Were she purchasing aspirin instead, you would be right. At least on the jurisdiction.
Again, though, altering a note from your Doctor that said you needed one bottle of aspirin to read five would in NO WAY constitute fraud.
Also, altering the aspirin note would NOT be illegal. It is ONLY the fact that the FEDERAL government maintains a schedule of controlled substances and regulates the perscription thereof that makes her act a FEDERAL FELONY, regardless of WHAT state she comitted it in. The state statutes will most likely be the avenue of prosecution, but the feds could take it out of their hands, should they choose, as she is in violation of a Federal Statute.
posted by FredsinPa at 3:33 AM on December 26, 2005


And for your information, I have read (or skimmed anyway) the U.S. code and didn't see anything about altering prescriptions. That doesn't mean it's not there, but it does mean that if it is, it's not very easy to find. And it's not in Chapter 21 (Food and Drugs) which includes the CSA.

I don't know what kind of lawyer you claim to be but stilted metaphors about the day of the week and chewing gum are not going to convince many judges of anything.
posted by delmoi at 3:35 AM on December 26, 2005


I would not try to "explain things" to the police. I would keep quiet; she is going to be charged. She did the crime, after all. But it is at the level of the prosecutor, with his exercise of discretion, that it will come in very handy to have a lawyer to argue the case for declining to prosecute.
posted by megatherium at 3:39 AM on December 26, 2005


Whatever, dude. You are totally missing the point of AskMe and this thread if you think it matters if this is a federal offense or not, since the feds would ever get involved with something like this even if they could or whatever else you're complaining about. You're also totally wrong. (not that it matters). I will not respond to any more of your posts (thus letting you get the last word) in order to prevent this thread from getting any-more derailed.
posted by delmoi at 3:45 AM on December 26, 2005


FredsinPa : "Also, altering the aspirin note would NOT be illegal. "

"People commit prescription fraud in numerous ways, including forging prescriptions, going to several doctors to get multiple prescriptions (termed “doctor shopping”), and altering prescriptions to increase the quantity."

Is Altering Refills a Criminal Act?. It seems the answer is No. One has to try to obtain the refill for the crime to be committed.
posted by Gyan at 3:48 AM on December 26, 2005


I would not try to "explain things" to the police. I would keep quiet; she is going to be charged. She did the crime, after all. But it is at the level of the prosecutor, with his exercise of discretion, that it will come in very handy to have a lawyer to argue the case for declining to prosecute.

I agree, this seems like mostly a case of getting the prosecutor not to charge you, which should be done through your lawyer. You don't personally want to talk to any of these people yourself.

It's a very expensive mistake to make, though. Hopefully the cops will just give up and not pursue it after searching your car.

By the way, the whole story about her circling the '5' herself is something that you should not have told the police (you didn't right?) A lawyer could have argued that the old doctor could have just circled the '5' after he took it off the carbon paper, or after they Xeroxed it or whatever it was they did. "There's no evidence otherwise and look at how old and senile he is!" It would have been compelling, since all the other scripts are circled '5'.

However by telling the story here, and (if you've told that story to the police) you've actually admitted to committing the crime! You really should hire a lawyer right away. If the police want to go ahead and prosecute, this might end up costing you several $k to defend.

Good luck.
posted by delmoi at 3:53 AM on December 26, 2005


And THAT is where the darn chewing gum comes in!! Aspirin is governed by much the same laws as chewing gum, but may be recommended by your Doctor. Prescriptions, however, are a completely different matter, and DO FALL UNDER FEDERAL LAW. Particularly narcotics prescriptions. Period. End of argument.Delmoi?
posted by FredsinPa at 3:57 AM on December 26, 2005


FredsinPa : "Aspirin is NOT on CSA."

My first link doesn't make a distinction between scheduled and non-scheduled drugs. It just refers to prescription drugs.
posted by Gyan at 3:58 AM on December 26, 2005


By the way, the fact that that case law exists will not only be helpful in an ultimate trial victory (should it come to that, it probably won't) but in getting the prosecutor to cut you a better deal or just give up entirely.

If your lawyer can trot out some complex legal reasoning on why it's not a crime, based on that court decision then the prosecutor's office will have to do a lot more work in persecuting you. They may just give up or offer a nice deal.
posted by delmoi at 4:11 AM on December 26, 2005


MeTa, Fred.
posted by grouse at 5:48 AM on December 26, 2005


[removed a bunch of off-topic comments, please keep it relevant to the question]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:59 AM on December 26, 2005


Time to get lawyered up. I think altering the last scrip, even if it was to conform to the doctor's original intention, is likely a violation of criminal law and in any event will make convincing people that the other scrip was not altered harder. Given the confusion of the situation, plus a good lawyer, you can probably convince a prosecutor that he or she has more important fish to fry, assuming that your wife in fact only altered one prescription. It was not a smart thing to discuss this with the police without a lawyer. Don't do that again. Talk to a lawyer before the appointment with this doctor. It sounds like a bad idea to me, but get some professional help here. If you can not afford a lawyer get in touch with Legal Aid or whatever they are called in your area. The situation is quite serious.
posted by caddis at 7:46 AM on December 26, 2005


Looks like your wife is in a lot of trouble. I smell something bad in a couple of areas here:

--First, if your prescriptions have always been the same, then you really don't have too much to worry about. Even if Sue alters the records, she can't alter the pharmacy records. It's been my experience that the pharmacies can get pretty touchy over narcotic type perscriptions. I have been in the exact same situation--that is an old doctor and bad prescriptions for narcotics. Now I know why I was smart to never change them. The bad prescriptions finally caused me to find another doctor.

--Second, what's up with all the pain meds? I'm kinda surprised a doctor would be willing to issue so many. Pain is a symptom--the doctor should be trying to resolve the problem, not just offer pain meds. I'm sure the cops will also look into this.

--Third, this Sue person. If she's relatively new there, then you might have a point. But if she's been in that office for a while, and she truely has problems, then she has had them with other patients, too. It's possible that she is the problem, but unlikely.

Lastly--are you sure your wife is being straight with you? Maybe she has been circling the '5's for quite some time, and now she's been caught. Her behavior would be consistant with someone that has an addiction--and she can lie to you as easily as anyone else. It's also common 'addict behavior' to find a third person to blame--like Sue. What was that run in about a few months back?

Overall, I think the big issue here is your wife--she says she is being truthful, but several people aren't backing her up. I bet she's not too happy about switching doctors--because a new one won't give her what she's getting from the old guy.
posted by lester at 7:51 AM on December 26, 2005


There's one thing I'm not sure I understand from your story. The second time, why was she getting an older prescription filled? In general, don't you get one prescription filled, and then when that one is out, get the next one filled?
posted by drezdn at 9:08 AM on December 26, 2005


For what it's worth I used to work in a pharmacy and was really interested in how they handled narcotics. Generally pharmacies err on the side of caution and give out the prescription. We were somewhat high volume but with a doctor's pad it's pretty easy to forge a script. We had a guy forging a script for months and months until he wrote something illeligble and we had to call the doctor's office -- surprise! The police were called on the matter but nothing dramatic.

We didn't call the police on most narcotic abusers. In fact the only narcotic abusers we knew were the really obvious ones (read: poor, badly dressed, acting strange) and we simply refused service and told them we would call the cops if they came back -- no one ever came back. We were very wary on calling cops as that usually meant an audit and some additional scrutiny. From what I understood it was a huge pain in the ass for the pharmacists -- again a low volume suburban pharmacy might differ.

Anyway we always saw the complete list of prescriptions when we were entering one into the computer and discrepencies were overlooked if someone had been receiving the same prescription over how many months, doctor's made mistakes. The pharmacist would handle narcotics scripts.

My point being is that this is very suspicious. I'm sorry I know the point of AskMe isn't to judge the poster but I think the "get a lawyer" advice is right. I'd find it very unlikely that they'd catch a circled 5 as being different. Doctor's offices get calls all the time for clarification, I don't know why such a routine call would warrant bringing the police in, even if it is a grunge.

Sorry for the length of the post but as someone both in the business for a short while, and acute interest in this very subject -- it raises several flags. I would suggest you get a lawyer and be very, very honest with him. Let him lie with you. If your story is indeed like it says it is no one will press charges, it is incredibly trivial given the information at hand (if she has a disease that requires the narcon I can't see why the judge would press it). At least open up to the possibility that your wife is abusing or trying to abuse narcotics and this is why the doctor's office is being so hard on her.
posted by geoff. at 9:41 AM on December 26, 2005


When my wife was about to hand in the script at the pharmacy, she noticed his blunder, and stupidly circled the "5" refills herself.

This is a Federal felony. You may not alter a physician's prescription for any reason.

She is absolutely innocent

Wrong. She's guilty of a Federal drug felony. What's more, you just admitted it in public. You can expect that Matt will get subpoena'd for your IP number if this goes to prosecution.

Norco is acetaminophen and hydrocodone. That makes it Schedule II, because hydrocodone is Schedule II. From 21 USC Sec. 829 01/22/02:
No prescription for a controlled substance in schedule II may be refilled.
There's no ambiguity about this, and every physician and pharmacist knows it. I think you're likely wrongly remembering that your physician wrote Norco for refills. Even if he did, though, the usual thing is that the pharmacist calls the doc and says, "You didn't really mean that, did you?"

However, when you or your wife, neither of whom possess a DEA license to write a Federal triplicate prescription, are seen to alter the prescription in front of a pharmacist or their assistant, your wife has committed a Federal felony and you're accessory before, during and after the fact. No pharmacist is going to join you in becoming accessory to this.

Regardless of the perceived injustice of the situation, you and your wife are in deep shit. Get a lawyer. Expect jail time. And stop talking about it in public.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:00 PM on December 26, 2005


My mother was in a bad car wreck a few years ago, suffering two slipped discs and some other spinal injuries. She was prescribed a pretty heavy dose of Valium (or maybe the generic; same thing, right?) and some physical therapy to get her to be a bit more flexible.

I understand that slipped discs are frightfully painful, but - having never had one - I didn't know if it was normal for her to increase the pain medication gradually over the next few months after the injury had happened. I noticed this because of a change in her behavior; she was tired very easily, verging on incoherent when it was close to bedtime. She's Type II bipolar, so my first thought was that her Brain Doctor had adjusted her medications.

She eventually admitted that she'd gotten dependent on the Vicodin and had been taking more than she needed. (This wasn't as easy as I make it sound.. it took many conversations over the course of a few weeks, and I had to be very careful with how I approached the subject.) She'd been lying to her doctor to get him to increase the dose.

The bipolar turned out to be helpful, here; I pointed out that a heavy dose of opiates couldn't possibly be good for her wonky mental chemistry, and she agreed. So she came clean with the doc, who gradually weaned her off the Vics and onto anti-inflammatories and other things that worked as well. With her age and arthritis and other physical concerns, she'll never be off the heavy painkillers entirely.. but now it's manageable, and she's being very careful not to get addicted to it again.

All of which is to say: if this is an addiction, it's weird and scary, but more common than you think and definitely not the end of the world. Chronic pain is a horrible thing, and IME most doctors are sympathetic about this sort of thing.
posted by cmyk at 12:00 PM on December 26, 2005


D'oh. Vicodin, not Valium, above.

I am (obviously) not any sort of medical professional.
posted by cmyk at 12:04 PM on December 26, 2005


You can expect that Matt will get subpoena'd for your IP number if this goes to prosecution.

Matt won't be able to comply, the way Anonymous AskMe is set up at this time. Discussed here and here, as well as other MetaTalk threads. Every Anonymous AskMe is actually posted by Matt himself, so they all have Matt's IP address. Matt has no way to tie it back to an individual user, for precisely situations such as these.
posted by Gator at 12:14 PM on December 26, 2005


Matt won't be able to comply

Thank goodness. It's still pretty irresponsible to describe this situation on the Internet, though. There's enough information (80-year-old doctor; chronic pain; husband and wife couple; specific dates; Norco scrip altered to state 5 refills) that they might be able to show probable cause, seize the poster's computer, and prove that they'd been the original poster.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:22 PM on December 26, 2005


Norco is acetaminophen and hydrocodone. That makes it Schedule II, because hydrocodone is Schedule II. From 21 USC Sec. 829 01/22/02:

Hydrocodine with acetaminophen is Schedule III, not Shedule II.
posted by delmoi at 12:24 PM on December 26, 2005


As you can see from this list on the DEA website, "Hydrocodone combination product 15 mg/du" is Shedule III (not II) The DEA code is 9806. Just search in that page for "9806".
posted by delmoi at 12:29 PM on December 26, 2005


Huh, so it is. It appears to depend on how it's written. I believe a single Norco pill comes with 7.5 mg of hydrocodone in it; I guess if you write it for no more than 2 pills at a time, it can be schedule III.

If you look, hydrocodone in general is schedule II. I presume that a prescription like "Norco 3 tabs by mouth daily" would fall under schedule II for this reason.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:52 PM on December 26, 2005


Generally pharmacies err on the side of caution and give out the prescription.

That's not erring on the side of caution. That's pandering to the customer.

Lastly--are you sure your wife is being straight with you? Maybe she has been circling the '5's for quite some time, and now she's been caught.

That was my first thought, too. Anonymous -- I'm sorry, but you should use that Tuesday appointment to privately discuss with the doctor whether your wife has an addiction.

I can see an octogenarian doctor -- old school, so to speak -- being more reliant on pain pills. I can see someone preferring this kind of doctor for precisely that reason. For my own health, after all, I'd prefer a younger doctor more obviously up to date on the latest and greatest.

On the other hand, I can also see such a doctor being forgetful/disdainful of the regs, and Sue being more and more angry as she tries to protect him, seeing the patients as taking advantage of his doddering condition.

But you need a lawyer, FULL STOP. Monday. He may forbid you from seeing the doctor on Tuesday, and if he does, listen to him. But talk to the lawyer privately as well, without your wife present.
posted by dhartung at 1:14 PM on December 26, 2005


Crap, it is Monday. See the lawyer before you see the doctor regardless.
posted by dhartung at 1:14 PM on December 26, 2005


I think ikkyu2 has a good point. I would bet given the length of time your wife has been on these that she is on the higher dose which pushes it into schedule II. If that is the case (and you can check an empty bottle) then she probably has not been straight with you on this. Getting into rehab can often help in reducing penalties etc. Of course, it could also help in saving her life. I hope that this just turns out to all just be a small misunderstanding, but it's starting to look a bit iffy. In any event, good luck to you and your wife.
posted by caddis at 1:24 PM on December 26, 2005


Huh, so it is. It appears to depend on how it's written. I believe a single Norco pill comes with 7.5 mg of hydrocodone in it; I guess if you write it for no more than 2 pills at a time, it can be schedule III.

doesn't 'du' stand for 'dose'? so 15mg/du would mean 15mg per dose, regardless of how many pills you were to take.

The reasoning I've always heard for this that the acetaminophen will cause vomiting, so it's less likely that someone would overdose or take too much.

I think it's a bit of a stretch to say that the number of pills changes the schedule, and thus the poster's wife is lying about getting refills (I've never heard fo anything like that before).
posted by delmoi at 2:02 PM on December 26, 2005


Get a lawyer. Nobody on Ask Me will give you a solution that'll work besides that one.
posted by cellphone at 2:56 PM on December 26, 2005


Get a lawyer. Nobody on Ask Me will give you a solution that'll work besides that one.

Definetly. And when you do, be sure to point out the case law that Gyan pointed out earlier. Not all lawyers are equal.
posted by delmoi at 3:00 PM on December 26, 2005


du stands for 'unit dose' or 'dosing unit', which means how much you are instructed to take at one time. When writing a prescription a doc writes a unit dose and an instruction as to how many times a day that dose is to be taken and by what route. It's the pharmacist's job to supply a set of pills and a set of instructions that allow the patient to comply with those instructions.

I think it's a bit of a stretch to say that the number of pills changes the schedule

It's odd, but it's apparently true.
posted by ikkyu2 at 3:21 PM on December 26, 2005


Also, those of you who are not on the prescribing end of the doctor-patient relationship, and who go pick up your narcotic 'refills' on a regular basis: you're missing out on all those exciting phone calls and faxes by which your pharmacy informs your doc that you need a brand new prescription, and by which we create a brand new prescription without your ever knowing about it.

The good pharmacies now fax us a little list of your recent prescriptions and when you filled them, too, so we can be alert to problems such as undercompliance and overconsumption.
posted by ikkyu2 at 3:27 PM on December 26, 2005


Just so everyone knows--hydrocodone (in any quantity) ALONE is a Schedule II controlled substance. When hydrocodone is combined with another drug (for instance, with acetaminophen, like in Norco, Vicodin, etc.) it is Schedule III. The schedule does not depend whatsoever on the quantity of drug in each pill, the number of pills in the prescription, the length of time the drug is taken, or any other factors. And refills most certainly are allowed for Schedule III substances.

Although your wife absolutely does need a lawyer, the fact that this was a script for Norco (rather than, say, Oxycontin or Ritalin or other widely-abused Schedule II drugs) is definitely in her favor, as is the fact that she had a documented long-term need for the Norco. Don't get too hopeless reading all these comments--it is very unlikely that she will be going to jail. By any standards, this is a pretty minor instance of narcotics law violation.
posted by feathermeat at 3:29 PM on December 26, 2005


PS--There are no drugs on the US market, to the best of my knowledge, which contain more than 15 mg of hydrocodone per dosage unit in addition to another substance (e.g. acetaminophen).
posted by feathermeat at 3:31 PM on December 26, 2005


further info on Norco, which is sold as Schedule III.
posted by klangklangston at 4:04 PM on December 26, 2005


feathermeat is correct. The schedule of a drug does not change depending on how many a patient is supposed to take at once. Schedule III controlled substances can be written with up to 5 refills. Also, I don't think hydrocodone by itself is commercially available in the United States.
posted by mokujin at 6:32 PM on December 26, 2005


I've seen quite a few blatant cases of misrepresentation in order to cadge narcotics. If charges are pressed here, I won't be surprised if monkeys fly out of my ass. I'm sorry for what happened to your spouse. Frankly, the doc is probably the bigger stooge here, as I suspect he has just drawn unwanted attention to the fact that he routinely Rx's narcotics with multiple refills and god-knows-what-other bad prescribing habits. Here's a thought - did your doc go over a "Material Risk Statement"? Did you ever sign a narcotic contract? In Oregon it's a major violation not to have a MRS on the chart. One might imagine a person in your shoes dropping a query to that effect to quiet down their office.

Get your records. Get them copied, and in your hands. Call every three days until they xerox the damn things and hand them over. Get out there and find a decent doc and get started anew.
posted by docpops at 7:41 PM on December 26, 2005


And anyways, depending on the state, even schedule III may need to be written in triplicate with limits on refills and calling in the prescriptions.

Agree with ikkyu2: it's a felony offense. Lawyer up, and you might still get lucky. You really are in deep shit -- remember that you can be prosecuted by the federal government and then again by multiple-levels of local governments (i.e. state) for this crime. Double-jeopardy doesn't apply here -- your lawyer has details.
posted by NucleophilicAttack at 9:54 PM on December 26, 2005


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