Pharmacists—Cops or Not? (Part 2)

Pharmacy Times, Volume 0, 0

Last month's article discussed theseemingly declining interest onthe part of law enforcement ininvestigating and prosecuting drug-diversioncases. This trend was coupled withthe criticism levied by the NationalCenter on Addiction and SubstanceAbuse (CASA) that pharmacists shouldbe more proactive in this area.

I have written many times in these articlesabout the frustration experienced bycaring pharmacists across the UnitedStates who very much want to addressthe drug-diversion issue in their communitybut are unable to interest their mostlogical partner—the police!

A few of you faced with this dilemmahave made attempts to detain or make a"citizen's arrest" of the perpetrator. Themajority of pharmacists give up aftermuch frustration,however. Some stopreporting the crimes topolice, and some may evenbe filling prescriptions thatare glaringly suspicious. Theproblem is that neither routeis likely to be in your bestinterest.

It is almost always a poordecision for pharmacists toget physically involved in incidentsthat occur in their pharmacy,when no one's life is inimminent danger. No moneyor drugs are worth riskingserious injury or even deathwhen a criminal is trying todivert drugs through forgedprescriptions or an armedrobbery.

The other extreme, ofcourse, is when the pharmacisthas lost all interest in curbing diversionand may even continue to fill prescriptionsthat he or she knows are likelyto be altered or totally bogus. This behavioractually encourages drug diverters tofrequent the store, as the word quicklyspreads that there is virtually no risk atthe facility of being caught for theircrimes. Drug diversion increases, whilelegitimate customers may begin to shyaway from the pharmacy. Some of themost blatant behavior may put the pharmacistat risk for licensure action, civil liability,or even criminal arrest.

As is the case with many things in life,the answer is likely not at either extremebut requires some balance.

This balance may involve paying closeattention to the description of suspects,keeping the film in the surveillancecamera current, preserving abogus prescription for possible fingerprints,or carefully obtaining a licensenumber of a getaway vehicle. These areall relatively safe steps that may very wellallow police to catch the criminal whojust left the store.

The last suggestion to those who arein this scenario is to not give up. It isimportant that you stay diligent inaddressing drug diversion by refusing tofill fraudulent prescriptions and reportingall of these incidents to your local police,regardless of their interest level. Lawenforcement will never take an interestin your problem if you are not reportingthe crimes when they occur. When youfail to report these crimes to disinterestedpolice departments, you actually theircomplacency.

Seek out experienced speakers on thetopic of drug diversion for your local pharmacistassociation meeting, or petitionyour state board to provide continuingeducation credits for these types of talks.If you are having trouble finding such aspeaker, e-mail me directly, and I willassist you in finding one through themembership of the National Associationof Drug Diversion Investigators.

John Burke, commander ofthe Warren County, Ohio,drug task force and retiredcommander of the CincinnatiPolice PharmaceuticalDiversion Squad, isa 38-year veteran of lawenforcement. Cmdr Burkealso is the current presidentof the National Association of Drug DiversionInvestigators. For information, he can bereached by e-mail at, viathe Web site, or byphone at 513-336-0070.