Bulk purchasing increase of painkillers leads to DEA investigation

Posted at 6:01 PM, Apr 08, 2012

(CNN) The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency is trying to crack down on prescription painkillers.

Federal drug agents searched six Walgreens stores in Florida, after they noticed a massive jump in the amount of Oxycodone the pharmacies were ordering.

The drug enforcement agency moved in on Walgreens. Agents removed records and other documents from six pharmacies in Florida and a distribution center, looking for suspicious sales of Oxycontin.

In warrants, the DEA states that in just the first two months of 2012, there are 53 Walgreens pharmacies listed in the agency's top 100 purchasers of Oxycodone.

That's compared to zero pharmacies being on that list in 2009, and now half of the agencies are in Florida.

A spokesman for the drugstore chain said in a statement that “We are working with, and cooperating with, the DEA on this matter.”

This investigation comes two months, after the DEA in Florida moved in on two CVS stores and a Cardinal Health Distributor.

Cardinal Health is challenging the action and CVS said it was disappointed, but cooperating.

The national association of chain drug stores says it has zero tolerance for prescription drugs being diverted to the black market.

But it's also working with law enforcement on another problem. The rise in prescription drug abuse has led to pharmacies around the country being robbed.  In New York’s Suffolk county, four people were killed in a pharmacy robbery last June.

Unfortunately, it’s a very serious problem in the fact that the price on the black market of prescription drugs, mainly painkillers, is so high and that they can actually buy heroin at 25 per cent less than prescription drugs and we are seeing that we are seeing people that are very desperate and are willing to rob pharmacies.

Pharmacies are beefing up security in their stores with extra surveillance, and some are even arming themselves for protection.