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‘Vigilant’ locum pharmacist uncovers 20,000-pill tramadol prescription fraud

Noman Ahmed’s impressive memory helped uncover a three-year tramadol tablet prescription fraud, C+D has learned.

A Kent locum pharmacist helped to uncover a years-long prescription fraud involving over 20,000 tramadol tablets after he noticed an “unusual” script, C+D has learned.

Folkestone-based locum Noman Ahmed told C+D this week (April 29) that he “became suspicious” when he recognised the same patient presenting scripts for tramadol issued under different names at different local pharmacies.

The NHS Counter Fraud Authority (NHS CFA) confirmed to C+D that after an investigation, a Folkestone GP practice administrator pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation last month. 

Read more: Vigilant pharmacist helps nab fraudster who committed £40k script scam

They had obtained 22,252 tablets of tramadol using 232 fake prescriptions between 2020 and 2023.

The person acquired the tramadol fraudulently to “support an addiction to the strong pain killer”, the NHS CFA confirmed.


Suspicions raised


Before November 2019 when he switched to working as a locum pharmacist, Ahmed had been a manager at one of Folkestone’s pharmacies where he used to speak with the administrator in their role at the GP practice, he told C+D.

When he was working a locum shift at the same pharmacy last year, they presented a tramadol FP10 script under someone else’s name and he noticed that it was “not the prescription they used to collect in the past”, Ahmed said.

Read more: Revealed: No prosecutable fraud cases against pharmacy contractors since 2021

“This struck me as unusual, but my familiarity with them from the surgery initially didn't raise any suspicion,” he added.

A week later, the same person appeared at a different pharmacy while Ahmed was working as a locum pharmacist and when they presented a prescription for tramadol under yet another name, Ahmed decided to verify the prescription.

Read more: Legal view: Can the NHSCFA deliver the government's counter-fraud strategy?

Ahmed contacted the GP surgery that seemingly issued the prescription and upon checking its records, they discovered that the prescription had been “cancelled” after it had been printed, he said.

On discovering this irregularity, Ahmed contacted the local counter fraud authority team, he added.


“Vigilant pharmacist”


Investigating officer Andrew Ede, who works as NHS anti-crime and investigations manager at specialist firm TIAA Ltd, said that the offender was only caught “thanks to a vigilant pharmacist”.

He added that the administrator “abused their position” to make “unauthorised access” to the surgery’s patient records system to make drug entries for tramadol. 

Read more: ‘Last chance’: Pharmacist found with £10 cannabis bag suspended for nine months

Ede said that they would then print a prescription and cancel the records entries using their own and other staff members’ usernames “in an attempt to hide what they had done” but that “audit trails” revealed “the full scale of the offending”.

The GP practice administrator was sentenced to 150 hours of unpaid work and ordered to complete a rehabilitation programme and to pay over £5,000 compensation to the NHS, part of which was “to cover part of the investigation costs”, according to Ede.


“Important case study”


Ahmed said that if he had been a permanent employee, he “might have left it”, but since he was only at the pharmacy that day, he thought “why waste time?”

He told C+D that he felt this case could be “an important case study”.

“It highlights the importance of maintaining professionalism, thinking outside the box and being vigilant in all interactions, regardless of who you are dealing with,” he said.

Read more: Covert surveillance: GPhC may abandon ‘never used’ spying powers

“What I learned is - find the first opportunity to contact whoever you think is the right place” to report suspicions, he told C+D.

And he added that “extra caution” should be used when dealing with paper prescriptions for controlled drugs.

Read more: ‘Pool of blood’: Half-naked man stages frenzied attack outside pharmacy

In July, a local police force revealed that a London man had been jailed for using “false” scripts to obtain restricted drugs for two years thanks to another alert pharmacist finding him out.

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article, you can contact Pharmacist Support by emailing [email protected] or calling 0808 168 2233/0808 168 5133 for free

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