News Story

 

Ventura County - Law Enforcement Works with Healthcare Providers to Combat Patient ''Doctor Shopping''
12/17/2014 12:35:00 PM

 

Nature of Incident:

Law Enforcement Reaches Out to Healthcare Providers to Curb Patient 'Doctor Shopping' for Obtaining Prescription Medication

Report Number:

None

Location:

Throughout Ventura County

Date & Time:

12/17/14  @ 11:00 AM

Unit(s) Responsible:

Ventura County Interagency Pharmaceutical Crimes Unit

Narrative:

In May of 2013, the Ventura County Interagency Pharmaceutical Crimes Unit (PCU) task force, in cooperation with every local police agency in the Ventura County, initiated a program designed to reduce patient 'doctor shopping' to obtain highly addictive prescription medications.    

 

The PCU is a task force comprised of members of law enforcement from the Ventura County Sheriff's Office, Simi Valley Police Department, the District Attorney's Office Bureau of Investigation, and the California Highway Patrol.  The task force's main mission is combating the transfer of legal prescription medication to the illegal market.  A secondary, and equally important mission, is the identification and stopping of new trends of abuse among the county's younger population set.

 

Since its inception, the Pharmaceutical Crimes Unit has contacted all 189 active pharmacies operating in Ventura County.  The task force contacted pharmacies and started a dialogue between law enforcement and health care in Ventura County.  Through this outreach program, information was exchanged between the pharmacists and the task force.  The task force investigated several large scale cases that were developed from information provided by the pharmacists.  Educational information was also disseminated to the pharmacies from the task force to safeguard their businesses against fraud, burglaries, and robberies. 

 

 

Pharmacists were encouraged to utilize the State of California Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES) in order to ensure their patients were not engaged in the illegal practice of doctor shopping.  CURES is a database available to law enforcement, physicians, and pharmacists that records all dispensations of controlled substance medications.  In the past month, all pharmacies were again contacted and asked to provide contact information in the form of an email address so the task force could share real time intelligence regarding criminal activity or educational information.  

 

On the heels of this outreach program, the task force recently contacted all 1,795 doctors in the county and provided similar information.  The task force is attempting to foster a stronger relationship with health care by collaborating with physicians and pharmacists in an effort to curb the unlawful abuse and sales of prescription drugs.  The task force recognizes that physicians are the gate keepers for prescription drugs.

 

The task force is asking for 100% physician compliance with utilizing the CURES program before issuing a prescription for a controlled substance.  Through a simple, two minute check, doctors can access all prescriptions issued to their patient in the past year.  Physicians will be able to determine if the patient is utilizing the services of several doctors to obtain drugs of abuse.  The doctor, supplied with this information, will be able to more accurately assess a method of treatment for that individual patient, which may include, refusing to write another controlled substance prescription and / or referral to an appropriate pain management doctor or addiction specialist.  The task force is also requesting that pharmacists continue to use CURES as well, to ensure another layer of protection against doctor shopping.

 

Several recent investigations conducted by the task force highlight the need for law enforcement and health care to be better connected and for physicians and pharmacists to utilize the CURES system. 

 

On 8-26-14, the PCU arrested Jacob and Lindsey Baumgarten for multiple counts of doctor shopping after it was discovered they visited 102 doctors in the past year and obtained controlled substance prescriptions for mainly opiate drugs.  The case only came to light after an astute pharmacist recognized Lindsey from a prior prescription where she used a different name.  A call by a physician or pharmacist to law enforcement after the third or fourth doctor / pharmacy, utilizing the CURES database, would have stopped the needless dispensation of hundreds of prescriptions of controlled substances, not to mention prevented this added drain on our health care system.   

 

On 11-21-14, the PCU arrested Braden New for multiple counts of doctor shopping after it was discovered he visited 72 doctors in the past year and obtained prescriptions for opiate medication.  New withheld information regarding prior physicians visited when seeing doctors.  Again, the utilization of the CURES system would have stopped this activity long before it came to the attention of law enforcement.

 

There have also been several recent probable overdose deaths in the county.  In one case, an individual visited 14 doctors in the past year for opiate and anti-anxiety medications.  Another case involved an individual who visited 12 doctors in the past year for opiates, anti-anxiety, and sleep aid drugs.

 

 

The enormous amounts of pills that are obtained by doctor shoppers are not only acquired for personal use, but often times find their way into the hands of our county's youth.

 

The Ventura County Interagency Pharmaceutical Crimes Unit believes it is important to balance the need of eliminating the unlawful use and sales of prescription medication without infringing on a doctor's ability to treat and prescribe to patients for legitimate medical reasons.

 

The California Board of Pharmacy and the Health Quality Investigation Unit of the California Division of Investigation assisted in this community outreach.

 

Doctors, pharmacists, nurses and the general public are encouraged to email Pharmaceutical Crimes Unit investigators at pharm.tip@ventura.org or call (805) 383-8700 to report any crime related to a pharmaceutical prescription drugs in Ventura County. 

 

Ventura County Sheriff's Media has released an informational video and documents that were used in collaborating with pharmacists and physicians.  To view the videos, documents and other information, visit http://goo.gl/0DA6AZ.

 

Ventura County Crime Stoppers will pay up to $1,000 reward for information, which leads to the arrest and criminal complaint against the person(s) responsible for this crime.  The caller may remain anonymous.  The call is not recorded.  Call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477).

 

 

Prepared by:

Ventura County Assistant Sheriff Gary Pentis

 

News Release Date:

December 17, 2014

 

Media Follow-Up Contact:

Ventura County Assistant Sheriff Gary Pentis

(805) 947-8074

gary.pentis@ventura.org