Popular Types of Pharmacy Fraud

common view

When buying medicine, there is more of a risk of fraud than you might expect. You want to put your trust in those businesses that supply your vital healthcare products, but the truth is you have to be on your guard as fraud is all too common. We take a look at the issues you should be aware of when you next buy medicine, whether online or off.

Off-Label Medications

All of the medications sold in the United States have to be approved by the FDA for their use. The pharmaceutical companies are allowed to market pills to doctors and hospitals for the uses that they have been approved for by the FDA. The use of a drug for the reasons it has been approved for is known as on the label.

However, there has been a significant problem discovered with doctors prescribing medications for uses that they haven’t been specifically approved for. This is known as off label and is normally done safely. Doctors are only supposed to prescribe off-label when there has been shown to be evidence of beneficial use, for the illness affecting the patient.

The problem is the marketing of the pills for uses other than approved for, by the pharmaceutical companies. If a pharmaceutical company can convince a large number of doctors that a drug has some efficacy for an unapproved use, they stand to make large profits without having to create a new pill or do the additional research to prove it works. This leads to patients taking medicines that may not be the best treatment for them and could hamper their recovery.

Since big pharma employs representatives that are paid a commission for the pills they persuade doctors to prescribe, it is easy to understand how the rules are ignored to promote off-label uses.


Auto Refilling

It can seem like a great time saver and a way to avoid forgetting to get your refills, then running out of pills. But allowing your pharmacy to automatically refill your prescription can lead to fraud.


The problem can arise when the patient no longer needs that medication, and the pharmacy isn’t notified straight away. They can continue to refill prescriptions if that happens, even without the knowledge of the patient concerned. Medicare and Medicaid may be billed for the costs of the medicines.

Even when the pharmacy has been notified of the patient’s change of need, some drugstores have continued to fill prescriptions. Since there is no one to collect the medication, the pharmacy can sell it a second time. This has been known to continue until the prescription runs out or the maximum number of refills has been used up. These cases have only come to light because of a few whistleblowers, and it is likely that this type of fraud is far more common than anyone knows.


Online Pharmacies

While there are a lot of great online stores selling pills at lower prices than you could find elsewhere, many have been found to be committing fraud against their customers. This could be:

  • Financial fraud – stealing credit card information
  • Identity fraud – taking the personal details of the patient
  • Medicine fraud – fake pills

There has been an unknown number of cases of people having charges made against their credit card that they don’t recognize after purchasing meds online. The charge will involve a business that the person doesn’t know anything about, and often in a country, they have never visited or bought anything from. Their purchase on the online pharmacy is often the only transaction that could have led to the fraud.


The related issue of having your identity stolen when using a scam pharmacy is another serious problem. This one can be less easy to spot than an entry in your credit card statement, but it can still have a serious effect on your life.

If your identity is used by criminals to apply for credit, it will damage your credit score. This may only become a problem when you need to apply for credit, perhaps for a mortgage, and you find you have a lower score than you expected. It will result in higher interest rates being applied to loans you want to take out, with much more to pay over the course of the loan.

It could also result in recovery agents coming after you for payment of a loan that you have no knowledge of. If you are concerned you may have fallen victim to identity theft, you can get a free credit report from the three main credit bureaus from AnnualCreditReport.com.


When ordering medications online there is also the very significant risk of receiving pills that aren’t genuine. They could contain ingredients that don’t produce the results expected or there could be too much or too little of the active ingredients. Any of these situations is going to do serious harm to your body and your overall health.

With too little of the active ingredients, even if they are the correct ingredients, it will lead to the illness getting worse. The pills might seem like they are doing something right, producing similar results to those you experienced when taking this type of medication before, but in fact, your health is being damaged. This can lead to doctors having to take more serious measures to fix the situation.

Too much or incorrect ingredients can have unexpected effects, with a risk of poisoning. The consequences are obviously very serious, but you can’t simply look at a pill to tell if the ingredients are correct.

To make sure your drugs are reliable you should avoid purchasing from scam pharmacies, online reviews 2020 can help you avoid rogue stores. It can be very difficult to tell if an online pharmacy is legit or not if you are unsure of what to look for. This is an area where it is better to use online pharmacy reviews rather than your best judgment.


Drug Switching

Even in brick and mortar pharmacies, you can end up with medications that aren’t as they’re supposed to be. There is a problem of different drugs being supplied to the ones that are intended. This increases the profits of the pharmacy indulging in this underhand tactic and could be adversely affecting the health of the patient.


This often happens when the pills are being paid for through Medicare or Medicaid. The customer receives generic pills instead of the brand products they have been prescribed, and the Government program foots the bill for the more expensive brand name meds.

A scheme like this is more likely to be perpetrated on customers that are more likely to not notice the switch, or not report the issue if they do have concerns. This may mean that the most vulnerable customers of the pharmacy, are the ones most likely to fall prey to this rip-off. Since seniors are more often under prescribed medication they are at greater risk from this type of fraud. Seniors are, therefore, often going to be the target of switching the pills without them noticing, or by convincing them that the drugs are the same as the ones prescribed.



Doctors and pharmacists have been known to be offered bribes to prescribe or dispense certain medications. The pharmaceutical companies offer payments or other rewards if they can get more of a certain medication sold to patients. This, of course, will likely mean that the patient’s treatment is compromised for the benefit of the medical professional, and is totally against what the medical profession should stand for.

a case of money

The doctor might be given a target to hit for the prescribing of a certain product. If they get to this total they will be given payment or some other type of reward, like a vacation, for example.

Bribery is also a problem with rewards and incentives being offered to the patients themselves. Rogue and morally bankrupt pharmacies use incentives to convince patients to unwittingly participate in their drug switching schemes. They offer gift cards, discounts, and other giveaways, to push patients to swap their pills for different drugs.

They may tell the customer that the drugs will perform in the same way as the more expensive pills, but this may not be the case. There are often side effects reported by patients when they switch between brand and generic medications, so the switch isn’t without potential issues.



These are just of the few of the potential acts of fraud that are being directed your way, by unscrupulous pharmacies online and at your local strip mall. Forewarned is forearmed, so being aware of the scams allows you to better equip yourself to avoid falling into these traps.

The risks involved are heightened when you are looking to save money. This is why people fall for the drug switching scam when being offered incentives and how people can be convinced a dubious online pharmacy is legit. When ordering meds on the net, be sure to search for online reviews 2020 for the latest information on the pharmacy you are contemplating using for your medical needs to avoid problems.

Leave a Comment