Expert provides menu on how to prevent pharmacy robberies

November 19, 2001

Tips on how to prevent theft and robbery

 

CHAINS and BUSINESS

Expert provides menu on how to prevent pharmacy robberies

A comprehensive plan for stopping pharmacy robberies might include protective barriers, signs, closed-circuit television (CCTV), limited stocks of narcotics, and more, said security consultant King Rogers. He was speaking at the recent National Association of Chain Drug Stores Fall Conference in San Antonio.

"Today it's [almost exclusively] OxyContin robbery. Tomorrow it might be something else," said Rogers, who started King Rogers Inc. after retiring recently as v.p. of assets protection at Target Corp.

OxyContin (oxycodone HCl, extended-release tablets, Purdue Pharma) abuse—which started in rural Maine and Appalachia—continues to spread. There have been numerous pharmacy robberies on the East Coast. By June, all states but Hawaii had recorded some OxyContin-related robberies, according to Rogers and federal statistics.

Purdue Pharma hired Rogers to produce a comprehensive menu of robbery prevention suggestions to be posted on the chain drugstore association's Web site, www.nacds.org. "You pick and choose from the ideas," Rogers said. Because of factors including lawsuit risk, "we don't want to set a standard some stores might not choose to meet." He and drugstore executives in the audience suggested using several tactics simultaneously, possibly including the following:

• Within 24 hours of a pharmacy robbery, offer a $5,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of that robber, and post the notice in all stores. The robber's acquaintances might successfully claim the reward. This tactic, cheaper than some options such as CCTV, is a good deterrent because it gets criminals off the streets and into jail.

• Another quick-capture device is a "panic button," which, when surreptitiously pressed, will summon police.

• Several executives said video monitoring did not deter robberies at some stores. Only two groups of customers, children and thieves, look at large CCTV screens showing them entering a store. The area close to the pharmacy counter is a good site for videotaping. To prevent a robber from taking the recording, signage should say it is monitored and kept off-site. Broadband and other efficient technology can transmit the images.

• Private consultation areas for patients will prevent criminals from noting which patients are getting OxyContin and then mugging them, Rogers said.

• Target Corp. decreased robberies by moving pharmacies to the back of its stores so robbers had to exit through a "labyrinth" of aisles, Rogers said. However, some executives said numerous robberies had occurred in their back-of-store pharmacies.

• Signs can say "OxyContin available by special order only," even if the statement is not true. Also, "special order" can mean getting the drug quickly from another store nearby.

Rogers said filling no OxyContin prescriptions at all "is not the best solution," because the policy would deprive patients of prompt pain relief, and the pharmacy would lose customers. (Some state laws require a pharmacy to stock OxyContin.)

• If you trust your pharmacist, a small amount of OxyContin can be kept in a locked central location. Small amounts can also be secreted in different spots on pharmacy shelves.

• An armed guard is a good, but not guaranteed, deterrent.

Rogers could find no statistics documenting robberies at drive-up windows. Pharmacy executives noted that the use of barriers, such as bullet-proof windows, would not work away from drive-up windows because the robber could still threaten to harm a store employee outside a fortified pharmacy.

As for exploding dye packs in robbers' loot, they might work for banks, but one drug chain gave up putting the packs in cigarette cartons because avoiding misfires was too difficult.

Rogers praised Rite Aid's comprehensive program for responding to robberies. He noted that it includes teaching employees how to act during a holdup and strategies to help restore employees' psychological well-being after a robbery.

Since the recent spate of robberies has some pharmacists near panic, any prevention measures would help by reassuring personnel that management is concerned and active, one executive said.

Steve Carrell

The author is a writer based in Texas.

 



Steve Carrell. Expert provides menu on how to prevent pharmacy robberies.

Drug Topics

2001;22:36.