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Federal agencies accuse pharmacies of aiding prescription drug abuse

Nearly all Marylanders are familiar with what a pharmacist does -- he or she fills prescriptions. It is often impossible for an individual pharmacist or a large pharmacy with many pharmacists to recognize when a physician is writing a suspiciously high number of prescriptions. That has not stopped the federal government, however, from accusing certain pharmacies and medication distributers of being involved in what federal agencies are calling a nationwide problem with prescription drug abuse.

The Obama administration has been organizing a multi-agency crackdown against CVS Caremark and Cardinal Health, alleging that they both have been filling a large number of Oyxcodone prescriptions. What is difficult to understand, however, is when is a pharmacist supposed to know when a doctor has written too many prescriptions for high-strength pain medication? When a pharmacist's reputation is on the line, it is important that both the government and his or her employer provide clear guidelines in order to prevent exposing the pharmacist to criminal charges.

The federal government has labeled prescription medication abuse an "epidemic" and it is using several federal agencies to punish physicians, pharmacists and drugstores for the alleged role in the abuse. In the recent raid against CVS and Cardinal, the Drug Enforcement Agency ultimately suspended four pharmacies.

There has been a national outcry against this crackdown, however. The White House has declared its war against prescription medication abuse at the same time that there is a staggeringly low supply of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder medications, including Adderall. Although the DEA is trying to restrict how much medication can be prescribed and distributed in what it says is an attempt to prevent abuse, many people are concerned that it will now be more difficult for people who need the medicine to get their medications.

In this confusing time, pharmacists may start to operate on the safe-side and be overly discerning in who can and cannot get powerful medications.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Prescription Drug Abuse Crackdown Hits CVS and Drug Wholesaler," Jeffrey Young, Feb. 15, 2012

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