Meperidine: Legal consequences

Last modified: Sunday, 31. May 2009 - 5:21 pm

As a Schedule II drug, meperidine is strictly controlled in the United States, as well as in other parts of the world. Its manufacture and distribution in the United States are controlled by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). International control is overseen by the International Narcotic Control Board (INCB).
Hospital and community pharmacies exercise special caution when dispensing meperidine and other controlled substances. In an emergency, a doctor may choose to telephone the patient’s pharmacy with the prescription. However, for medications such as meperidine, telephoned prescriptions can usually only provide a small amount of the drug, and the doctor must provide their DEA number and some relevant medical information. Refills for Schedule II medications are not allowed; a patient must obtain a new prescription from their doctor.
It is illegal to write a prescription or an order for meperidine without a valid medical license. Professionals who may legally write prescriptions or orders for meperidine include medical doctors, doctors of osteopathy, podiatrists, dentists, and veterinarians. Physicians or dentists who knowingly write multiple prescriptions for patients without a valid medical reason may end up in prison. Writing and filling bogus prescriptions for profit is an even more serious offense.
Likewise, it is illegal to obtain, or try to obtain, prescriptions for meperidine or other opioids under false pretenses (fabricated symptoms and scenarios). Nineteen states have a law (a felony in some) prohibiting patients from obtaining the same controlled substance from multiple prescribers within a limited time-period (“doctor-shopping”). The perpetrators of crimes involving prescription drugs are most often white, middle-class women. Their crimes usually involve doctor-shopping and/or prescription forgery.
Many people argue that increased production of opioid drugs leads to increased rates of abuse and addiction. The national attention on burglarized pharmacies, and drugs pilfered from hospitals, seem to bolster this argument. However, studies have consistently shown that patients with chronic pain who use opioids appropriately rarely become addicted. In 2001 and 2002, a number of groups that advocate for effective pain management joined with government agencies, including the DEA, to begin a long-term effort to increase the availability of effective pain-management drugs for patients, while decreasing the chances for illegal use and abuse.

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