• December 22, 2014

Area police, pharmacies try to stop prescription drug abuse

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Posted: Saturday, February 18, 2012 12:00 pm | Updated: 9:50 am, Thu Aug 16, 2012.

By Philip Jankowski

Killeen Daily Herald

Area law enforcement officials and pharmacists agree that stopping the tide of prescription drug abuse requires a partnership between the two entities.

Falsifying prescriptions and filing police reports for stolen medication are just a couple of ways addicts obtain prescription drugs, officials said.

John Wilson, Scott & White Hospital's director of pharmacy, has seen many different techniques in falsifying prescriptions. Some are as crude as adding an extra zero to a prescription, making a 30-pill prescription 300. Others use chemicals that remove the ink on a prescription for antibiotics, leaving the doctor's signature so the person can write in a different medication.

The hospital is transitioning toward electronic prescriptions, which will eliminate the potential for abuse, Wilson said.

"It is a more secure network of prescribing," he said. "I'm sure that is something that will be broken into at some point, but right now they are very secure networks."

Physicians are the only people with access to the prescription database through password protection, he said.

Law enforcement officials report seeing scams in which a person will pretend their prescription drugs have been stolen. Once they get a police report, they can request refills from their doctor.

In Killeen, the most commonly misused drug is the anti-anxiety Alpraxolam, or Xanax, said Sgt. Eric Bradley, who supervises the Killeen Police Department's Organized Crime Unit, which handles the city's narcotics investigations.

On Fort Hood, the painkiller Oxycotin is the most commonly abused prescription drug, said Fort Hood Police Chief David Ross.

Most of these drugs are brought into Killeen from pharmacies in larger cities that have been burglarized, said Bradley. Drugs also can be ferried from Canada and Mexico, where drug laws are more lax.

"Normally when we come across folks, it's hand-to-hand sales," said Bradley. "Occasionally we'll have a doctor who will write a bad prescription. We have had doctors who write a prescription for any claimed ailment. It's not overly rare."

A database maintained by the Texas Department of Public Safety monitors every prescription written for a controlled substance. The database flags doctors and pharmacies suspected of abuse, said Wilson.

Pharmacists are able to see how often a person has been prescribed a drug and what doctor wrote the prescription. The pharmacist can always refuse to fill the prescription, said Wilson.

Bradley said the monitoring system helps prevent people from getting several prescriptions from multiple doctors, which are filled at several pharmacies - a practice known as "doctor hopping."

But prevention can be more nuanced.

Landon Gibbs, a law enforcement liaison for the pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma, suggested to area police this week during two workshop sessions that officers proactively meet their local medical community before they encounter a problem.

"You go in there and you get to know these people," said Gibbs. "You're not threatening them, but you're letting them know you're concerned."

Contact Philip Jankowski at philipj@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7553.

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