What is in this article?:
- Protecting the Pharmacy Against Robberies
- Supermarkets Aren't Immune From Drug-Related Thefts
- Pharmacies Adopt New Security Procedures
- Sidebar: On the Patrol
- Sidebar: Take Off Your Hats
- Sidebar: The Cost of Addiction
Pain medication-related robberies put pharmacies on high alert, and prompt new security measures
The pharmacy was just about to close when a woman wearing baggy clothes and a hoodie walked up to the counter and handed a note stating that she had a gun and wanted the entire supply of OxyContin.
The pharmacist and tech working that night coolly complied to get the woman out of the store as quickly as possible.
“They stayed calm and did what they were told,” said Blaine Whitney, owner of Whitney’s Family Supermarket, Corinth, Maine, which houses the pharmacy.
No one was hurt on that cold night this past January, and the robber — who reportedly stole about 5,000 OxyContin pills — was subsequently arrested and charged. But the incident rocked the 8-year-old rural store, which never experienced an incident like that.
“It’s concerning; everyone is at risk,” Whitney said.
While most patients take pain medications responsibly and legitimately, illegal trafficking and abuse of prescription medicines has become a serious public health problem in the United States, and has been the cause of pharmacy robberies.
Read more: Healthy Signs for In-Store Clinics
Opioids are particularly troublesome because they can be dangerously addictive. Prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain, opioids include such brands as Vicodin (hydrocodone), Dilaudid (hydromorphone) and OxyContin (oxycodone hydrochloride) and Opana (oxymorphone).
“These drugs are so powerful that abusers will do almost anything for it,” said Whitney.
That includes robbery — and sometimes murder.
The nation’s pharmacy community is still coping with the June 2011 murder of four people inside an independent pharmacy in Medford, N.Y., part of Long Island’s Suffolk County.
A man reportedly walked into the pharmacy and, without announcing a robbery, methodically shot and killed the store’s pharmacist, store clerk and two customers before leaving with thousands of hydrocodone pills and other medication. The incident was described as “the most cold-blooded robbery-homicide in Suffolk County history.” The man was apprehended and sentenced to five consecutive life terms.