Regulators' investigation into prescription fraud identifies 150 health professionals

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Regulators’ investigation into prescription fraud identifies 150 health professionals

June 23, 2015

VANCOUVER, BC: The College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC and the College of Pharmacists of BC have each concluded separate investigations of prescription fraud in the Lower Mainland.

The investigations began in 2013 after both colleges became aware of allegations from a member of the public that she, and a relative with the same surname, had been the victims of an individual using their identities to obtain and fill multiple prescriptions for various narcotics. These allegations drew serious concern as the impersonator managed to obtain more than 250 prescriptions from multiple physicians and then filled those prescriptions at 34 different pharmacies from January 2007 to January 2013.

After careful review of relevant patient records and PharmaNet records, and correspondence with all the registrants in question, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC and the College of Pharmacists of BC identified 150 health professionals that had demonstrated practices that were of concern.

The investigation by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC resulted in the following:

  • 46 physicians were criticized by the College for deficient prescribing practices and were required to participate in remedial and educational activities, including attendance at the Prescription Review Program’s workshop on safe prescribing practices
  • Of those, 16 were additionally required to undergo a practice investigation, which consists of  an interview at the College, and in some cases, a comprehensive onsite review of a physician’s entire medical practice

The investigation by the College of Pharmacists of BC resulted in the following:

  • 11 pharmacists were reprimanded and signed professional undertakings committing themselves to professional practice standards
  • 49 pharmacists signed professional undertakings committing themselves to following required practice standards that would prevent this situation from happening in the future
  • 44 pharmacists received formal letters reminding them of current practice standards. In some cases, these letters were sent to pharmacy managers that may not have been personally involved but were responsible for the pharmacies where these practices had taken place

“We all know that prescription drug abuse, including diversion, is a serious problem in Canada,” said Dr. Heidi M. Oetter, Registrar and CEO of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC. “This case serves to remind physicians of the important role they play in mitigating this public health problem, which starts with prescribing medication to patients according to current prescribing standards and principles. This includes taking the time to conduct an appropriate exam, asking the right questions, and checking the patient’s PharmaNet profile prior to issuing a prescription—especially for a narcotic. As we have seen, neglecting these steps can have serious consequences.” 

Bob Nakagawa, Registrar of the College of Pharmacists of BC added, “The outcome of this case shows how important it is to confirm that the right person is getting the right dose of the right drug at the right time. Being vigilant about checking identification and reviewing a patient’s medication history on PharmaNet are critical to make sure that this is what happens every single time for every single patient. If there had been better adherence to those two fundamental standards by the pharmacists involved, this entire situation may have been avoided. I am confident that our new Practice Review Program, which applies to every community pharmacist and pharmacy technician in the province, will help reinforce the importance of adhering to the standards and to avoid another incident like this in the future .”

Physicians and pharmacists have a collective professional obligation to ensure that patients receive quality health care. With the above actions, and subsequent notification, both colleges are satisfied that the public interest has been served.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC and the College of Pharmacists of BC are both governed by the Health Professions Act, which provides a common regulatory framework for all self-regulated health professions in BC. Under this legislation, each college is required to ensure that every registrant in the province is practising to the highest professional standards.


Media inquiries:

Mykle Ludvigsen
College of Pharmacists of BC

Susan Prins
College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC

Background Information

College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC

The primary function of the College is to ensure that physicians are qualified, competent and fit to practise medicine. The College administers processes for responding to complaints from patients and for taking action if a physician is practising in a manner that is incompetent, unethical or unprofessional. The College also administers a number of quality assurance programs to ensure physicians remain competent throughout their professional lives.

The College’s Prescription Review Program is a quality assurance program that assists physicians with the difficult task of prescribing potentially addictive medications with appropriate caution. The program reviews and analyzes physicians’ prescribing patterns obtained through the province’s PharmaNet database. The goal of the program is to broaden the dialogue with physicians about prescribing challenges, and explore alternatives for managing patients with chronic pain. The program develops prescribing principles and administers educational workshops to help physicians identify clinical pitfalls, detect misuse and abuse of drugs, and identify strategies to manage patients on opioids, benzodiazepines and other potentially habituating medications.

Find out more at

College of Pharmacists of BC

The College of Pharmacists of BC protects public health by licensing and regulating pharmacists and pharmacy technicians and the pharmacies where they practice. It is responsible for making sure every pharmacist and pharmacy technician in BC is fully qualified and able to provide the public with safe and ethical care.

The College launched the Practice Review Program in 2015. The program is designed to improve compliance to standards and guidelines as set by the College. It builds upon the current pharmacy inspection process and includes individual assessment of pharmacy professionals in their own workplace. The College is using four universal focus areas for the individual pharmacy professional review, which includes patient identification verification and PharmaNet profile checking.

Find out more at

Jun 23, 2015