The New York Police Department says it plans to use an innovative approach to combat the theft of painkillers by asking pharmacies to hide fake pill bottles fitted with GPS devices amid the legitimate supplies on their shelves, this article reports. The NYPD says the initiative was prompted by a rash of high-profile crimes associated with the thriving black market for oxycodone and other prescription drugs in recent years, including the slaying of four people on Long Island during a pharmacy holdup in 2011, the article says. Officers will ask roughly 6,000 pharmacists and 1,800 pharmacies in the New York City area to adopt use of the bottles, which can be tracked in the event of a robbery or theft.
The GPS devices will be provided by Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin – the most-abused medicine in the United States.
New York has suffered brutally at the hands of the prescription drug addiction epidemic, and experts say things have only gotten worse since the quadruple homicide at a Medford, N.Y. pharmacy in 2011. According to this article, there were 92 instances in Nassau in 2011 in which prescription opioids were linked to overdose deaths – a tally higher than either of the previous two years and more than triple the 2004 figure. Forty-five of those deaths happened after the Medford killings, the article says.
Meanwhile, Suffolk had 177 such cases in 2011, the most ever recorded by the county medical examiner’s office; 80 of those deaths occurred after the murders, the article says.
Prescriptions for oxycodone in New York rose by 82 percent from 2007 to 2010, according to a recent report issued by the state’s attorney general. Almost 22.5 million prescriptions for all types of narcotic painkillers were written in the state in 2010, with an especially high quantity of prescriptions being written on Staten Island and in large areas of Suffolk County, the report says.
The state has boosted its efforts to crack down on painkiller abuse in the wake of the killings. In June 2012, nearly 100 individuals were arrested in a law enforcement sweep targeting traffickers and health care practitioners accused of illegal prescription drug use in all five of New York’s counties. Prosecutors filed drug trafficking and other federal and state criminal charges against 98 defendants, including two doctors and a nurse practitioner, and have barred a Brooklyn pharmacist from dispensing prescription drugs.
In May 2012, the state passed a “Good Samaritan” law aimed at reducing overdose deaths by protecting people who call for medical help for overdose victims from being prosecuted for personal possession of drugs, paraphernalia or underage drinking.
Overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in New York, where almost 22.5 million prescriptions for all types of narcotic painkillers were written in in 2010, according to a report issued by the state’s attorney general.
Read more about the prescription addiction epidemic in New York here.