Medical swindles could total millions

More than 50 chemists are currently under investigation by the Judicial Police (PJ) after a vast health fraud was uncovered. The fraudsters have reportedly robbed the state of hundreds of millions of euros. Aside from the pharmaceutical sector, the authorities have also detected various frauds involving private clinics that have protocols with the state, which are also reported to have stolen millions of euros. The method used by the pharmacies involved in the swindle varied. In some cases it involved falsely obtaining certain prescriptions for medicines from the state and, in other cases, introducing illegal medicines into the Portuguese market. The fraudsters, who, in some cases, were chemists themselves, pretended to be ordinary customers. Armed with bogus prescriptions from the state, they bought expensive medicines from other pharmacies. In this way, they only paid 20 per cent of the medicine’s normal price before reselling the same medicine in their own chemist at the regular price. A source linked to the investigation said: “Using this scheme, the chemists obtained the medications at a price that was considerably lower than they would have paid if they’d bought it in the normal way.”

The investigation also discovered that some pharmacists were selling medicines that were technically past their sell-by date. The PJ discovered that these products were also being sold to other Portuguese speaking countries. In addition to chemists, it seems that workers were also involved in a similar scam, namely that of charging prescriptions improperly to the state. Facturas were filled out for non-existent medicines and services that were not rendered. This swindle involved doctors, nurses, pharmacists and laboratory directors. The investigation, which began in 2001, has already led to the dismantling of various organised crime rings. Some of those accused of taking part in the swindle are being held in preventative detention, but others are reportedly still at large. One of the accused is Dr Rui Dias, who is also implicated in the Casa Pia child abuse scandal.