March 27, 2012

As policymakers seek to address the epidemic of prescription drug abuse and related pharmacy fraud and drug diversion, it is relevant to consider where prescription drugs subject to abuse—particularly Schedule II controlled substances—are typically dispensed. To determine this, Visante analyzed prescription data covering the majority of medication dispensed in the United States annually.


  • In 2011, retail drug stores dispensed more than 125 million prescriptions for medications such as opioid narcotics, barbiturates, and amphetamines that are classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as Schedule II drugs, which have a high potential for abuse.
  • Retail drug stores dispense more than 100 times more prescriptions with a high potential for abuse than do mail-service pharmacies.
  • Just 0.4% of prescriptions dispensed by mail-service pharmacies are Schedule II drugs.
  • Mail-service pharmacies that ship Schedule II controlled substances require a signature upon receipt to ensure that the medications have been received and to minimize the potential for diversion.
  • The retail drug store channel dispensed more than 500 million prescriptions for all types of controlled substances in 2011 (Schedule II–V), which amounts to 14% of all retail prescriptions.
  • Approximately 3.4% of prescriptions dispensed by mail-service pharmacies are controlled substances (Schedule II–V).

Read the entire report.