Not Your Father’s Pharmacy Anymore

by Diane Dimond on April 23, 2012

Fast Growing Crime Scene - Pharmacies

They used to be the friendly neighborhood place where you went to get razor blades or Band-Aids, toiletries or the occasional prescription the doctor gave you. Today, as America’s population uses more prescription medications than at any other time in history, the face of America’s pharmacies is changing. And, in some sinister cases the activity taking place inside these stores is far from legitimate.

You’ve probably noticed that your pharmacy now has a video surveillance system, maybe a uniformed guard and the pharmacist may have to retrieve your order from a locked safe. At closing time they might roll down a metal cage to cover the counter or let loose guard dogs to patrol inside the store. This isn’t your father’s pharmacy anymore and the reason is a shame: Prescription drug abuse has now become an epidemic in America. It’s become a much bigger problem than street sales of drugs like heroin, marijuana and cocaine.

Painkillers Fetch Up To $80 EACH On Street

The Drug Enforcement Administration says some seven million Americans now use prescription drugs for non-medical reasons – and most of the abused drugs are narcotic painkillers containing Oxycontin and Hydrocodone. Because pharmacies often stock large quantities of such pills they have become ground zero for both drug pushers (who know each pill can fetch up to 80 dollars on the street) and desperate drug addicts intent on getting what they want.

But, in some cases the theft of these costly drugs is perpetrated from the inside – by drug store employees who use their position as a front for their illicit activities.

Federal investigators have gotten wise to both these groups.

Walgreens and CVS Targeted By Feds

The DEA confirms it is currently investigating half a dozen Walgreens Drug Stores across Florida after they red-flagged a massive spike in Oxycontin purchases. One store, for example, bought 95,000 doses of the painkiller in 2009. Last year, that same store bought more than two million doses. The DEA says that’s about 30% more than a typical pharmacy would buy so it served the nation’s largest drug store chain with federal search warrants and is currently pouring over paperwork to try to determine where all those narcotics went.

The DEA seems serious about stemming the flow of these addictive drugs from complacent pharmacies. In February, the agency found similar Oxycontin activity at two CVS drug stores in Sanford, Florida and suspended their licenses to sell prescription drugs. The DEA concluded the stores were an “imminent danger to the public health.”

Pharmacists Can Be Criminals Too

Media reports say the action marked the first time a national drug store chain has had a store’s license yanked. I say it’s about time. If it can be proven that a pharmacists or another store employee sold narcotics under the table and pocketed the money they should go to jail like any other drug pusher.

I only hope the DEA is as tough on greedy doctors who over-prescribe these painkillers like they were candy and on all those internet pharmacies offering Oxycontin while bragging you can get it, “without a prescription.” I would think the web-based purveyors of these painkillers would be fairly easy to find by simply following the trial of credit card transactions but there must be more to it since every time I check there are more and more of them. Whatever the feds are doing to curtail them it isn’t working.

While the inside-the-store jobs are disturbing enough even more important to the public’s immediate safety is the rising number of drug store armed robberies – up an astounding 82% over the last five years.

Addict Laffer Killed Five During Robbery

Some of these goons strike in broad daylight like the armed addict who arrived at the Haven Drugs store in Medford, New York last June. While his addicted wife waited in the car 33 year old David Laffer stuffed his backpack with thousands of painkillers. Before he left he shot and killed five innocent people in the process.

In Houston, almost 20 pharmacy thefts have occurred since January. In one case the action was caught on video and showed the robber was in and out of the store in just two minutes apparently knowing exactly where the Oxycontin and Hydrocodone was kept.

“What it’s telling me is they have some information on how these pharmacies are set up,” said Lt. Jeff Stauber of the Houston P.D . “It was almost like he was shopping to fill a shopping list.”

In Minneapolis, police picked up a 24 year old man for a pharmacy robbery and he not only admitted his crime but copped to two other drugstore painkiller heists earlier this year. In Indianapolis, a pharmacist with a gun pointed at his back was led past customers by a thug intent on cleaning out the narcotics cabinet. In Guilford, Maine a young man armed with a hunting knife jumped the counter, threatened the pharmacist and fled with a large amount of narcotics.

Prescription Drug Epidemic Puts Public At Risk

From California and Nevada, through Colorado and New Mexico and on into Oklahoma and Kansas a shockingly high 300% increase in addictive drug sales have been charted over the last decade. That translates to more potential abuse, armed robberies, overdose deaths and heartache.

How much worse does it have to get before we figure out how to stop this awful trend?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Diane Dimond April 23, 2012 at 5:29 am

Reader Steven R. Ariens, P.D. writes:

” Ms. Dimond..

Our population has always contained 3%-5% that will abuse some substance .. other than alcohol & tobacco… Most substance abuse is people who have undiagnosed/untreated mental health issues and are basically self-medicate … trying to escape their demons. Many of those that rob pharmacies are people interested in making a “fast buck”… providing those that are addicted with the substance that they wish to abuse. Those people who abuse substances… will find something to abuse… you could eliminate the availability of all opiates tomorrow and these people will continue to find substances to abuse and a means to fund their habit. It is amazing that no sees the similarities between the war on drugs today and what happened during the alcohol prohibition period. A certain per-cent of the population continued to get their hands on alcohol and those that provided it… were violent and interested in making the “quick buck”. If we would allow healthcare professionals to treat these people who are abusing substances… it would nearly eliminate the need to rob pharmacies and the diverters would need to find a new business plan.

The war on drugs technically began with the Harrison Narcotic Act 1914… so .. we are looking at nearly a 100 yr war… Being a Pharmacist for 40+ yrs… all I have seen is the bureaucrats doing the same thing over and over in “fighting” this war… This has seem to become more of a self-perpetuating INDUSTRY… consuming more and more money and involving more and more bureaucrats.. Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome …”… the DEA seems to be following this logic…

Steven R. Ariens, P.D.

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steve May 4, 2012 at 7:43 am

I believe the subject of drugs etc, has been so over debated that most people have become completely numb to the whole subject. At the heart of it people use drugs because they feel something missing inside themselves, some people fill it with Religion, others Drugs or both.
I believe in personal freedom for all – as long as you don’t hurt anyone else then choose your own path, we are after all born free to experience life for ourselves are we not?? unless we truly are just another number on the stock exchange to be filed,stamped and indexed until death.
I have had many conversations with friends and doctors that heads explode when I bring up the subject of personal freedom and yes some people commit crime to support their addiction and that should be dealt with as a crime but many do not ( what about Doctors who prescribe anti-depressants to people who then go crazy and hurt themselves and other people, why are the Doctors never held accountable? or the Pharma industry who knows their drugs are killing people? ), so yet again is everyone to be punished for others mistakes.
If drugs were legalized then people can make their own minds up – it also takes away the criminal element and cleans up the whole shadow side to it, it may also take the glamorous side to it away – Does nobody question why the Entertainment industry promotes the use of drugs and then the law tells you that you can have all your rights taken away if you dare to use them?
If someone wants to be an occasional user then that’s their choice, if someone wants to go the full hog then that is their choice also, no one has the right to tell others how to live – live your own life not other people’s.
The fact that somebody who looks after themselves and does not hurt any one else through their lifestyle choice can be sent to prison for putting a substance ( that some group of people decide is not acceptable for you to take ) in their body of their own freewill makes me question every thing.
I also question what the military is really doing in Afghanistan…..Opium anyone???

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