Police and Pharmacists Team Up to Thwart Drug Diversion

Pharmacy TimesApril 2017 Respiratory Health
Volume 83
Issue 4

Any law enforcement officer who has worked in drug diversion knows the importance of the pharmacy profession.

Any law enforcement officer who has worked in drug diversion knows the importance of the pharmacy profession. Myself and my colleagues have found pharmacists to be incredibly savvy allies, especially when it comes to weeding out individuals who are trying to scam the system.

A recent conference at Auburn University’s School of Pharmacy saw law enforcement officials, pharmacists, and other health professionals team up to tackle the ongoing problem of prescription drug abuse.1 It does not matter whether such a collaboration is initiated by pharmacy or law enforcement. Ideally, every town, city, and county would practice the teamwork demonstrated at this conference.

One of the best places to start is your local pharmacists’ association. I have given many presentations to these groups, which usually meet once a month at a local eatery and are typically open to pharmacists and pharmacy technicians from chain and independent pharmacies, as well as students. Members of the associations can invite the local police chief or sheriff, maybe even the local prosecutor. It is important to explain the problem of drug diversion from the pharmacy’s perspective and get these decision makers on your side. If they do not have time to participate themselves, they could delegate someone as their representative.

These partnerships give pharmacists a resource to help deal with issues regarding drug seekers. Pharmacists can be important mentors to law enforcement of cers, most of whom have little training or knowledge regarding prescribing of controlled substances. Likewise, law enforcement gains another approach to tackling drug diversion and its associated issues, including overdose deaths and related crime. Officers can make suggestions, such as the following, to help prevent pharmacy robbery and burglary:

  • Proper camera positioning
  • Alarm systems and security
  • No signs or advertisements on windows, so as not to block views
  • What employees should do and not do during an armed robbery

Training seminars also can be set up to teach officers and pharmacy staff more about drug diversion and how they can work together. Guest speakers can include state drug diversion agents, local officers with expertise on the topic, pharmacists, prosecutors knowledgeable in drug diversion criminal laws, and state regulatory agents from a board of pharmacy. One of the best parts of these seminars is the networking that takes place during breaks.

If you step out and organize a team of pharmacists and law enforcement officers, it will likely make your job easier and give the of cers a better perspective on drug addiction and what pharmacists deal with daily. Who knows, a long-term friendship might develop!

Cmdr Burke is a 40-year veteran of law enforcement and the past president of the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators. He can be reached by e-mail at burke@rxdiversion.com or via www.rxdiversion.com.


  • Horton J. Pharmacists emerge as critical gatekeeper in opioid epidemic. WSFA website. wsfa.com/story/34394050/pharmacists-emerge-as-critical-gatekeeper-in-opioid-epidemic. Published January 31, 2017. Accessed March 7, 2017.

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