Best practice updates | Medical phone scams

The NSW Ministry of Health’s Pharmaceutical Regulatory Unit has received reports of a scam that has seen more than 30 doctors across NSW caught up in the prescribing of high strength fentanyl patches following directions given fraudulently over the telephone.

Following a consultation with the patient, the doctors typically receive a phone call from a person claiming to be:

  • The PBS, advising that the issued prescription was cancelled or that the issued prescription’s authority number for increased quantities is incorrect and therefore a new prescription was required
  • The Ministry of Health advising that the doctor issues another prescription to the patient
  • The pharmacist advising that the prescription needed to be re-issued.  

These prescribed fentanyl patches were found to have been diverted, trafficked and ultimately misused. This is of serious concern because the risks associated with the misuse of fentanyl patches, such as the injection of fentanyl extracted from the patches, include overdose and death.

This is a reminder to all practitioners to independently verify the person’s or organisation’s phone number if you have any doubts about who you may be speaking to or receive a suspicious call from an alleged health practitioner or government body.

Please be reminded that:

  • The PBS authority is solely for the subsidy of medicines
  • Government agencies or regulatory bodies will not instruct a medical practitioner to prescribe
  • Doctors are expected to responsibly exercise independent professional and clinical judgement
  • SafeScript NSW is a clinical tool which provides real-time information on the patient’s prescription history for certain high-risk medicines. This is available to assist you with making informed clinical decisions and it is strongly encouraged that you utilise this tool.  You are able to use and access SafeScript NSW after registering through this link: