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Pain medication-related robberies put pharmacies on high alert, and prompt new security measures
Supermarkets Aren't Immune From Drug-Related Thefts
Dedicated pharmacies are often the targets of opioid-related thefts, but supermarket-based businesses are far from immune.
Along with Whitney’s, dozens of other pharmacies inside food retailers have experienced hold-ups.
“This class of drugs is the most common target of pharmacy robberies by drug seekers to sell or satisfy their own addiction,” said Cathy Polley, a registered pharmacist and vice president of health and wellness at the Food Marketing Institute, Washington. “To those seeking the drug, it doesn’t matter if it’s in a traditional chain drug store or a supermarket pharmacy.”
A Sweetbay Supermarket in Bradenton, Fla., knows that all too well. At 2 p.m. on a typical day this past May, a man walked into the supermarket and jumped over a pharmacy counter. Armed with a box cutter, he demanded oxycodone. The pharmacist gave him the pills and the man left.
After releasing a surveillance image of the man, the suspect was arrested and charged.
Among other supermarket-based incidents, according to reports:
• Twin sisters allegedly tried to rob a Marsh Supermarket in Bloomington, Ind., of OxyContin using a toy gun.
• A Manchester, N.H., Osco pharmacy inside a Shaw’s supermarket was robbed of oxycodone after a woman presented a note that demanded the drug and implied she had a weapon.
• A gunman robbed a pharmacy located inside an Albertsons grocery store in Spokane, Wash., using a semi-automatic pistol. The man stole the pharmacy’s OxyContin supply.
The pharmacist on duty the night of the robbery inside Whitney’s Family Supermarket was 30-year-old Erica (who did not want her last name used). She had worked at the store for a mere three months.
It seemed like an ordinary business day until a woman with several layers of clothing walked up to the pharmacy and handed the note to the pharmacy tech on duty. The tech immediately passed the note to Erica. Once she read it, Erica went into survival mode.
“I kind of zoned out, and did as I was told,” she told SN.
In her six years as pharmacist, Erica had never been robbed, although she always knew it was a possibility.
While she has no plans to leave the profession, the crime changed the way she performs her job.
“I’m definitely more cautious. I look at people a lot harder,” she said.
Erica worked at Rite Aid prior to coming to Whitney’s, which she thought would be a more secure environment.
“You would think supermarket pharmacies would be safer, but that’s not the case,” she said.