Theft of Pharmaceuticals on the Rise

Law enforcement officers and pharmaceutical industry officials say that the theft of pharmaceuticals is on the rise across the United States, reports the Fresno Bee.

The news source reports that while there are no official numbers of nationwide pharmaceutical thefts because of variety of reasons, federal drug authorities, pharmaceutical companies, pharmacies, state officials and local police departments say that there has been an increase in recent years.

“It’s not surprising that pharmacies have become the object of crime, given the popularity of prescription drugs,” Barbara Carreno, a Drug Enforcement Administration spokeswoman, told the news source. “Communities must take this threat as seriously as the threat posed by street drugs like heroin and cocaine.”

Many of the pharmaceutical thefts target painkillers which can bring in $60 per pill on the street, reports the news source. However, pharmaceutical thefts can pose other risks beyond drug abuse and street crime. Some thieves cut the drugs with substances that can reduce their effectiveness or make them unsafe. In addition, stolen pharmaceuticals are typically not stored and handled property, which can affect their quality. If these drugs reenter the pharmaceutical supply chain they can be very harmful to the consumers who end up taking them.

Oklahoma has seen a large and fast increase in the amount of pharmaceutical drug thefts, reports the news source. In 2007, the Sooner State had 31 burglaries of pharmacies. That number went up to 42 in 2008 and was 51 last year, according to figures from the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control.

“There isn’t any doubt we’ve seen a spike in the past five years or so in pharmacy break-ins,” Mark Woodward, spokesman for the bureau, told the Bee.

And Oklahoma is far from alone in the dealing with a pharmaceutical theft problem. In 2007, there were 32 such incidents in Ohio and that number shot up to 68 the following year. The problem has increased the need for security at pharmacies around the nation.

“Pharmacies just typically haven’t had to deal with this,” Rick Zenuch, director of law enforcement liaison and education at Purdue Pharma L.P, told the news source. “I don’t think we want to get to the point where we see teller-style windows.”