Drug Diversion and Abuse: Operation Medicine Cabinet

Pharmacy Times, Volume 0, 0

A recent safe disposal prescription initiative in Florida should serve as a guide for other counties throughout the country to help curb prescription drug diversion.

John Burke, commander of the Warren County, Ohio, drug task force and retired commander of the Cincinnati Police Pharmaceutical Diversion Squad, is a 40-year veteran of law enforcement. Cmdr Burke also is the current president of the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators. For information, he can be reached by e-mail at linkEmail('burke','choice.net');, via the Web site www.rxdiversion.com, or by phone at 513-336-0070.

Sgt Lisa McElhaney of the BrowardCounty Sheriff's office in Floridarecently made one of her ideasa reality in her home state. This ideaaddressesa key drug diversion problemthat is affecting our youth and making prescriptiondrug abuse one of the main substanceproblems with our teenagers. Heridea takes a positive step with the communityand industry in reducingunusedprescription drugs in our nation's medicinecabinets. In fact, it is appropriatelycalled "Operation Medicine Cabinet."

The Broward County Sheriff's office, inconjunction with the United Way of BrowardCounty Commission on SubstanceAbuse, solicited several retail pharmacychains to accomplish a voluntary prescriptiondrug return to sheriff's deputiesat 5 strategic community locationsthroughout the county. CVS, Walgreens,and Wal-Mart all participated in this landmarkoperation, supplying $5 gift certificatesto anyone dropping off the unusedpharmaceuticals to law enforcement.

Because of Drug Enforcement Administrationregulations, this kind of operationwould normally be difficult, if notillegal. The drugs were turned in to lawenforcementofficers with no questionsasked, however, and were processed asabandoned property. The pharmaceuticalswere sealed and marked as anyother property turned over to the BrowardCounty Sheriff's office, destined forproper destruction, and gone from southernFlorida medicine cabinets and nolonger available for abuse and diversion.

This operation has been so successfulthat additional operations are alreadybeing planned—perhaps every othermonth. This also has spurred borderingcommunities to contact Sgt McElhaneyto find out how they could bring thissame program to their backyards.

If you have been reading my articlesover the past 2 months, you alreadyknow that our youth have learned thatone of their most lucrative supplies ofdrugs is quite possibly found in their ownmedicine cabinets. In addition, otherinvited guests to our homes—friends,relatives, delivery drivers, carpet layers,painters, and a host of others too numerousto mention—may rifle our medicinecabinets to feed addictions and/or makea profit.

The other important part of this verypositive story is that Sgt McElhaney didnot try to do this alone. She reachedout to the community and to the privateindustryin order to ensure success.The UnitedWay and CVS, Walgreens,and Wal-Mart pharmacies were the perfectpartners for the Broward CountySheriff's office to collaborate with in thisgroundbreaking effort.

Law enforcement prevention effortsare oftentimes very difficult to measure,and this one is likely no different. I do notthink it is much of a stretch, however, tosay that Operation Medicine Cabinet canvery likely impact a number of householdsin reducing the abuse of prescriptiondrugs and can possibly save a life or2 in the process.

So what did we all learn here? Sometimesthe simplest ideas can have thelargest impact on a real problem inAmerica.Sgt McElhaney, the UnitedWay, CVS, Walgreens, and Wal-Martall joined togetherto make it happen.They should all be given the recognitionthey deserve, and this should be a challengeto counties and neighborhoodsacross the United States to attempt theirown Operation Medicine Cabinet andmaybe save a life in the process.