We have been talking recently about the epidemic of prescription drug abuse. This leads us to wonder where all these drugs come from. We’re not discussing drugs such as heroin or cocaine, the origin of which may be South America or Asia. And we doubt there are enough doctors writing prescriptions for narcotics and related drugs, or enough patients doctor shopping, to fill the apparent need among those abusing them. Two recent stories caught our eye, and may provide some insight into the way legitimate prescription drugs find their way into the black market.

This week, Fox reported that a local Scottsdale pharmacist was arrested for allegedly selling Oxycodone to customers with fraudulent prescriptions. Apparently, the arrest came after a six month undercover investigation into the pharmacy’s operations, which revealed, among other things, twice the Oxycodone sales of other drug stores in the vicinity. Now we’re not saying that the pharmacist is guilty of a drug crime – we adhere to the fact that all defendants are innocent until proven guilty. It does appear likely, however, that forged prescriptions, with or without the complicity of a pharmacy, is one element that contributes to these drugs being available on the street.

The second story, reported last week, likely points to a more significant – perhaps the most significant – contribution to the availability of prescription drugs on the illegal market. It concerns the arrest of two brothers allegedly behind the theft of $75 million worth of prescription drugs from an Eli Lilly & Co. warehouse in Enfield, Connecticut. It was the largest theft in United States pharmaceutical industry history. Once again, we are not saying these men are guilty; and according to the report, none of these drugs reached any illegal markets. But if you take a look at reports concerning the pharmaceutical industry in our country, you will find that the Enfield theft points to a problem that has a long and troubling history. Here are a couple of statistics you may find surprising:

  • Annual cargo theft in the United States is estimated at between $8 billion and $12 billion. Fifteen percent of that amount, or between $1.2 billion and $1.8 billion, is attributable to theft of prescription drugs.
  • The value of each theft, based upon the fifty or so major thefts reported in 2010, was $3.7 million.

Lucrative? That’s a gross understatement. Compare it with a bank robbery, which has an average take of $4,000. We know there are a variety of methods by which people obtain prescription drugs illegally, including forged prescriptions and counterfeit products. It appears clear, however, that a major portion of the supply comes from the manufacturers themselves. Equally as clear, the industry must do more to protect its products from being stolen. While we don’t believe that the problems associated with addiction will be cured by tightening controls on theft, it is apparent that the black market supply is making it easier to obtain drugs illegally.

If you have been charged with a prescription drug crime, contact an experienced Phoenix prescription drug lawyer to insure that you receive the best possible legal representation.

Law Offices of David A. Black
40 North Central Avenue #1850
Phoenix, AZ 85004
(480) 280-8028


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