Pharmacy Robberies: In the Crossfire

I graduated pharmacy school in 1999 and went straight into retail pharmacy. I had my reasons for not pursuing a residency (regret that) and went for the money and where I was comfortable. I had worked for Walgreens while in pharmacy school and had a knack for dealing with the public, or so I thought.

Two years after that decision, a patient with HIV, homeless and psychologically unstable threatened me over the phone for not refilling his alprazolam 2 mg four times a day prescription two weeks early. He was on our state's medicaid at the time and they would not pay that early. He told me that he knew my work schedule and my brains would be on the parking lot when I didn't expect it.

That pretty much sealed the deal for me to take a huge pay cut and beg for a new direction in my career. You see, my employer didn't allow concealed weapons so I had no way to protect myself from the fear of death due to benzodiazepine addiction and no reason to live. There are many other stories not so fearful of a man jumping over the counter and assaulting a pharmacist while the store manager jumped in to save the day and it goes on. I just was not in the place mentally to continue with the fear of being a sitting duck at the young age of twenty-five.

And so it goes, I read the news today and find:


And this is just a brief five minute search of what's happening in the world of pharmacy news today. The news is filled with addiction and robberies in the pharmacy. The war on illegal drugs that started decades ago is being trumped by the addiction problem to legal prescription drugs and the dealers out to exploit the addicts' addictons. In 2013, the top 10 states with pharmacy robberies were Arizona, Indiana, California, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Ohio, Texas, and Washington. 

Ken Fagerman wrote a book called Staring Down the Barrel which details how a group of pharmacists began a program with police that stopped rampant pharmacy robberies and at the same time uncovered widespread organized narcotic diversion.

I worked with a pharmacist once who had owned his own store and told stories of chasing criminals down the street with a shotgun and was a big part of the decision to sell his second generation pharmacy to a retail chain, "It wasn't worth the risk with a wife and kids."

A Walgreens pharmacist who tried to defend himself during a pharmacy overnight robbery loses his appeal against Walgreens who fired him over using his concealed weapon in defense. No one was injured but the pharmacist lost his job.

A Rite Aid pharmacist was killed last year for no other reason than explaining to the customer that he needed a prescription to obtain a medication he wanted, and in WV, an independent pharmacist shot and killed a robber holding a gun at his staff

The DEA has an office of diversion control with a website that offers tips on what to do after a robbery and how to  prevent one from happening.

RxPATROL® (Pattern Analysis Tracking Robberies and Other Losses) is an initiative designed to collect, collate, analyze and disseminate pharmacy theft intelligence to law enforcement throughout the nation.

I am not sure what the answer is to lower the risk for retail pharmacists. I feel lucky that I was able to leave retail after the incident since there were more job opportunities. I don't feel retail pharmacists can always make the same decision today since pharmacist jobs are scarce and high student loans must be paid.


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