WASHINGTON Representatives from the National Community Pharmacists Association, Purdue Pharma, L.P., RxPatrol and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Law Enforcement Executive Development Association today announced the launch of the Protect Your Pharmacy initiative, aimed at raising awareness and fighting pharmacy crimes.
NCPA’s president, Stephen Giroux, and executive vice president and chief executive officer, Bruce Roberts, spoke on a conference call, along with other RxPatrol participants and sponsors. RxPatrol is a collaboration of law enforcement professionals and the pharmaceutical industry to track pharmacy crime information.
Roberts said the motivation behind the new awareness campaign stems from a nationwide concern about prescription drug abuse and related crime.
“Abuse of controlled substances in our nation’s pharmacies is on the rise,” Roberts said. “It is estimated that prescription drug crime is a source of between 25 to 30 percent of the country’s drug problem, according to the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators.”
Through this initiative, Roberts said, the NCPA will promote April 14-18 as “Protect Your Pharmacy” Week to encourage pharmacists to take additional measures in protecting their patients and staff.
One important innovation of the RxPatrol system is the implementation of a nationwide database of pharmacy reporting that pharmacists can access for reference and to enter new information.
Richard Conklin, retired captain of the Stamford, Conn. Police department and program coordinator of RxPatrol, described the searchable database. “You can search for your state, for your town, for your region, on all different types of crime,” he said.
Conklin says that by going one step further and partnering with Crime Stoppers, a program that offers rewards for information leading to the arrest of suspects, his organization has seen 54 arrests nationwide.
Aaron Graham, vice president of Purdue Pharma, stressed the importance of maintaining a national database. “The idea was to create a database where we could share information nationally in the pharmacy community, as well as in law enforcement,” he said. “[This was important because] pharmacy-type criminals don’t just focus on that pharmacy and community. In fact they are a very transient group.”
In addition to his position at NCPA, Giroux is also a pharmacy owner who is no stranger to pharmacy-targeted crime. Giroux said that his pharmacy fell victim to burglary after burglars hid in a restroom until after closing hours, then broke into the pharmacy and stole controlled substances. The burglars escaped undetected because motion sensors in the store were not working properly and a back door alarm had been disarmed.
“Quite a scary circumstance, particularly if they had been caught and confronted,” Giroux said. “Fortunately, there was no armed robbery in that particular instance.”
But Giroux said a neighboring pharmacy in Lockport, N.Y., was not as lucky during a burglary attempt. Giroux said he knew of an instance when a pharmacist was held up at gunpoint as a suspect demanded controlled substances.
In another case that Giroux cited, a pharmacy contacted police regarding a man who had attempted to use a forged prescription. When police arrived on the scene, the man pulled a gun and opened fire on police. Giroux said that the officer had to open fire on the assailant to subdue him. No one else in the pharmacy was hurt.
“When we capture somebody who has victimized in a pharmacy not only do we solve that particular crime, but … we have prevented tomorrow’s crime,” Graham said.
Since 2003, the efforts of RxPatrol have recorded more than 4,000 incidences of crime in pharmacies across the country.
“NCPA was the original partner with Purdue [and law enforcement] in the launch of RxPatrol in 2003,” Roberts said. “[We] have always been committed to safety in pharmacy settings.”