AF annual drug warning

I’m not sure why, but it seems the Air Force must have a checklist of annual warnings.  The official website makes one about prescription drugs, entitled: Prescription meds: Proceed with caution.  The caution advises that misuse of prescription medications can result in disciplinary action, including court-martial.

When Airmen ignore inspecting their medicine cabinets they risk possible damage to their careers and, more importantly, can jeopardize their health.

This becomes a problem later if Airmen take prescribed medications after the prescription has expired.

Airmen who test positive for expired or borrowed prescriptions are subject to legal proceedings under the UCMJ, and incur punishments similar to those who test positive for illegal narcotics.

"Wrongful use of prescription drugs is a violation of Article 112a of the Uniform Code of Military Justice," said Capt. Heather Rowlison, 28th Bomb Wing assistant staff judge advocate. "Violations of this article can be punished at court martial, with a maximum punishment of dishonorable discharge and a confinement of up to 15 years."

Giving medication to other Airmen to help with temporary pain or due to self-diagnosis, is also another pitfall for Airmen.

I find this interesting as always.  Several years ago I had this situation in a case.  The prosecution called the base pharmacist as a witness.  The purpose was to establish various facts and to have the pharmacist talk about the prescriptions and issues and expiration of prescriptions.  What the prosecution didn’t know, they’d not talked to their witness – actually, let me rephrase that, they did talk to the witness, but only about what they needed to prove the elements as they thought of them, they made the mistake many prosecutors make of only thinking about the prosecution case, not how the defense might try to defend – well anyway, there were several points I was able to bring out during cross-examination.

First, the prescription was given to be taken, “as needed.”  PRN or as needed in the medical terminology is commonly used to mean "as needed" or "as the situation arises." It is generally used as the acronym PRN to refer to dosage of prescribed medication that is not scheduled; instead administration is left to the caregiver or the patient’s prerogative.

Second, the pharmacist testified to several other things relevant to findings.

a.  That he himself had on occasion used old pain medications from his medicine cabinet when he felt a pain from an old injury.  Oooops – this was what the client was being prosecuted for doing.  Remember, as a pharmacist he wasn’t the provider who prescribed the medication to himself, so he had no implied authority to self-medicate or prescribe.

b.  That the prescription may be for 30 day supply, but that doesn’t mean the allowed usage has to occur only within that 30 days, especially if it’s a PRN prescription (see above).

Client was acquitted on that charge.  Unfortunately he had a few other charges so it wasn’t a complete loss to the prosecution or a complete win for me.  But it does illustrate the need to actually dig a little deeper into the allegations and what the witness can testify to.