Drug Diversion and Abuse: Don't Be Collateral Damage

Pharmacy Times, Volume 0,0

Pharmacists should not fall under the spell of celebrity and provide special treatment for famous individuals who enter the pharmacy.

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.

Just recently, another high-profileathlete, this time from the NewYork Giants, has gotten in troublewith law enforcement. It seems that hebrought an unregistered firearm into anightclub and somehow the gun accidentallydischarged, striking him in theleg. This creates a potentially career-endingevent, because New York Cityhas stringent gun laws involving mandatorysentencing. If this was the end ofthe story, and only the talented widereceiver was in trouble by his doing,then I might say "let the chips fall wherethey may."

It is not the end of the story, however,but the beginning of collateral damagethat is caused by normally sound-thinkingindividuals who become enamoredwith celebrities. It is not necessarily anuncommon problem with anyone whois taxed with decision-making authorityand encounters one of our nation's"heroes." I have seen it happen to lawenforcement, lawyers, and health professionals—in some cases, it causedthe loss of a job or even criminal prosecution.

In the New York City case, it wasreported that the nightclub managementknew that this professional footballplayer had an illegal firearm onhis person when he entered the establishmentand now will face possibleproblems with its liquor license permit,creating a significant problem withoperating at a profit in the future.

The other part of this collateral damagereportedly involved the hospitalthat this football celebrity was transportedto, where the physician on dutydecided to allow this player to registerunder a false name at the emergencyroom. At the time of publication,she has been suspended from her joband faces disciplinary action; no wordwhether the hospital itself also willface some sanctions.

So, why is this the topic of an articlethat is devoted to drug diversion in apharmacists' magazine? It is importantthat pharmacists do not fall into thistrap of providing special treatment tocelebrities or any other individuals,which violates personal ethics, administrativerules, or especially criminallaw. Taking part in this may classifythe pharmacist as "collateral damage,"which can have devastating effects onhis or her job, family, and even freedom.

Knowingly or recklessly filling prescriptionsunder false names for individualscan constitute serious offensesthat could result in the consequencesdescribed above. Undoubtedly, prescribersin this country are writingprescriptions for people in a name andaddress that they know is blatantlyfalse. These individuals are generallynoted athletes, actors, politicians,or others who share some portion ofnotoriety, usually in the public eye, andexpect to be treated much better thanthe average citizen.

The problem is that administrativerules and criminal laws do not statethat pharmacists can deviate from theirpractice as long as it is for someonewho is famous! Keeping in mind your"corresponding responsibility" in fillingprescriptions, it is vitally importantthat you do not land in the trap that theNew York City nightclub and physiciandid with their football "hero."

This is written with the sincere intentthat no pharmacists put themselvesin the position of compromising theirvalues for the sake of a celebrity, andthen pay a lifetime of consequences forone poor decision. A celebrity does nothave to be of national repute—it maybe someone who only would attractlocal attention—but this person canstill make you "collateral damage," andit is never worth it.