A couple of years ago,Sergeant Bill Stivers of theLouisville (Ky) Metro Policeinvented a program called "Mug ofthe Month." This program wasdesigned to provide recognition toLouisville area pharmacists whowent above and beyond the call ofduty to identify drug diversion andwork positively with law enforcementofficials.
Since then, Sgt Stivers has handedout dozens of hand-painted coffeemugs to area pharmacists for theirwork in cases involving "doctorshopping," forged and altered prescriptions,and a host of othercrimes committed in Louisville areapharmacies that were brought tothe attention of the police.
Sgt Stivers commands the pharmaceuticaldiversion unit of theLouisville Metro Police Departmentand has been an innovator and national speaker in this area.His personal drive and enthusiasm have been infectious toboth his own personnel and the area pharmacists that makeprograms to combat drug diversion so effective.
Although the award is a nicely prepared coffee mug withlittle monetary value, it has been an invaluable asset to SgtStiver's program and a coveted award for the area pharmacistswho have received one. The award is featured in theLouisville Metro's newsletter that goes out to hundreds ofarea health professionals.
Periodically, law enforcement officers receive thanks andcongratulations from the general public. Too often, however,my peers and I unintentionally overlook the work that citizenshave done to assist law enforcement officials in their duties.Those police agencies that conduct drug-diversion investigationscould not function effectively without the cooperationof their area health professionals, especially pharmacists.
When we started the Cincinnati Police Department'sPharmaceutical Diversion Squad in 1990, the big questionwas whether we could earn the cooperation of pharmacists.So the first action I had my investigators take was to personallyvisit each pharmacy in Cincinnati to introducethemselves. They explained the new program and statedthat we wanted to work together with pharmacists toaddress the drug-diversion issues. Iplanned to have the officers visiteach pharmacy every 3 months totalk to the pharmacists personally.
Any anxiety that I had aboutcooperation from the area pharmacistswas quickly dispelled. Most ofthem had been frustrated that,although they had reported drugdiversion to uniformed officers,there seemed to be little interest orknowledge of the crimes beingattempted or committed every dayin their stores. Because there was nospecialized unit working on drugdiversion at the time, they hadeventually grown weary of trying todeal with doctor shoppers and thoseforging or altering prescriptions.
Information poured into our drug-diversionsquad office from ourpharmacists from almost the firstday that we started the visits. Ifound that there was so much work for the 4 investigatorsthat it was impossible to make a personal visit to every pharmacyevery 3 months, or every year, for that matter.
This is the kind of cooperation and working relationshipthat allows law enforcement in the drug-diversion field tobe so successful. With his permission, we copied Sgt Stiver's"Mug of the Month" program and began handing out ourown version of the coffee vessel to our area pharmacists, likethe one in the photo. Pharmacist Kelly Doerman of Meijer'sPharmacy in West Chester, Ohio, won the cup for demonstratingoutstanding work in helping to apprehend an areacriminal who was passing some exceptionally well-forgedoxycodone (OxyContin) prescriptions.
Thanks go to the rest of you who do not have the benefitof a pharmacist recognition program but are still diligentevery day in identifying and pursuing drug diverters andcooperating with your law enforcement agency. We couldnot do it without you!
John Burke, director of the Warren County, Ohio, drugtask force and retired commander of the CincinnatiPolice Pharmaceutical Diversion Squad, is a 32-year veteranof law enforcement. For information, he can bereached by e-mail at email@example.com, via the Web sitewww.rxdiversion.com, or by phone at 513-336-0070.