Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Three pharmacists and 23 doctors in fraud scandal

Doing their job
(Photo: Guardia Civil)
Doctors prescribed expensive medicine in pensioners' names without their knowledge · Chemists sold on black market
SAN PEDRO DE ALCÁNTARA  It worked like this: the doctors prescribed medication -often costing over €5,000- to pensioners without their knowledge; later, a pharmacist's assistant, allegedly the head of the scam, would pick the prescriptions up and sell them on the black market, principally to sports people as anabolic steroids. At the same time, the medication was charged to the SAS (Servicio Andaluz de Salud, Andalucía's health service) and to a civil servants' health care system, Muface.>>>

The scam had already amounted to half a million euros before the Guardia Civil arrested two pharmacists, an assistant, and accused 23 doctors, of which 19 worked for the SAS and four for Muface. The chemists were released under charges, and the assistant is bailed at €75,000. They are all accused under a number of charges, including false documentation, usurpation of identity, fraud, etc. The doctors are charged with 'not meeting basic requirements' as they had prescribed medication without seeing the patient nor checking their medical history.

Operation Apoteque began towards the end of last year, when the Pharmacy Inspection unit of the Health Council of Andalucía detected that a pharmacist in San Pedro had sold an unusual volume of a tranquiliser (Rubifén), much larger than the average. On the pharmacy books were other medications in larger amounts than normal, including two cancer medicines: Letrozol and Anastrozol, used for breast cancer but prescribed to men, as well as prostate cancer medication, Bicalutamida, prescribed to women.

Case goes to the Public Prosecutor
The Guardia Civil's Anti-drug and Organized Crime Unit questioned the pensioners whose names were on the prescription. They found that none of them had ever required any of the medication involved, nor had they ever reported illnesses of the kind the medication is used for treating.

Further investigation and checks on five homes, revealed that there was a store of €60,000-worth of medicines at the assistants' home. Also found were 11 false stamps in the name of doctors, several prescription booklets from Muface, over one hundred SAS prescriptions with the medication bar code coupon attached, as well as computer material with which the scam had been passed as genuine.

Although Operation Apoteque is still continuing and it has yet to be proven that the doctors were part of the fraud or were simply being used. Among them are 20 Spaniards, two Italians, two Cubans, one Romanian and one Serb.

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