Since 2008 as many as 1.4 million blank prescription forms may have been stolen from New York City hospitals and resold to criminal gangs (possibly the Latin Kings) but the New York State Department of Health hasn't bothered to warn pharmacists about the problem, Newsday reports [paywall]. Which makes total sense considering the fact that last year more people died on Long Island from overdoses related to Oxycodone than heroin.
Newsday got its hands on a July 11 memo from the NYDOH (below) which spelled out the situation, but apparently wasn't disturbing enough to warrant a public warning. "The issue was first identified in the NYC area in 2008, and was initially thought to be isolated incidences," the memo reads. "Since that time BNE [Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement] has identified a significant number of thefts and losses of EMR [Electronic Medical Record] forms from primarily NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation Hospitals. Many times facility staff is unaware of the theft or loss of the prescription forms."
How many forms are we talking about here? "The potential number of prescription forms that may be affected, based on shipments associated with serial numbers from the previously identified 100 counterfeit prescriptions, is estimated at 1.4 million forms," according to the memo. To be fair, it could be far less than that as well. "At this point of the investigation we estimate the number of prescriptions could be at most several thousand," Health department spokesman Jeffrey Gordon told Newsday. He later explained to the Times "about 100 prescription forms had been confirmed as stolen, and that the 1.4 million figure in the memorandum reflected the number of forms shipped in the same batches as the stolen prescription forms that have been tracked."
Blank prescription pads are worth a pretty penny (just ask they guy who was using them to sell Oxy out of an ice cream truck). A blank form can go for between $100 and $300, which is part of why it is suspected that a major criminal enterprise is involved (a source tells Newsday that the Latin Kings are the culprits here though the memo doesn't name names).
The most remarkable thing about this disturbing story though is that, despite there being evidence these bogus scripts were out there ("the forms have appeared throughout New York and in other states and at mail-order pharmacies"), the state Health Department has chosen not to alert pharmacies here (Connecticut at least put out a warning last week). "It's mind-blowing," Jeff Reynolds, director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, told the Long Island newspaper. "That much paper getting out into the community, it makes our job harder, but at the end of the day it's taking lives—in record numbers. It's akin to letting the most virulent virus you can find loose in New York State and not telling anyone."