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Pharmacists on the frontline in battle against prescription drug abuse

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - Around the country, pharmacies have been robbed by criminals looking to get their next fix.

It's a problem that has pharmacists feeling they are now on the frontline in the battle against prescription drug abuse.

This is one concern that has brought hundreds of pharmacists together. This time last year, the Eastern Ohio Pharmacist Association was non-existent. The group now has more than 500 members.

"We are definitely on the front line. There is no question about that," said Ray Carlson, owner of RC Compounding in Poland, Ohio. "The message to be delivered to the people who are addicted is being delivered by us and sometimes they don't always take that in a very kind manner."

Pharmacists are professionally obligated to make sure the drugs they're dispensing are for a legitimate reason. State-wide computer programs have helped them track and cut off suspected abusers. But pharmacists say, that doesn't stop the addiction.

"Pharmacists are being robbed at gun point," said EOPA President Paul Witkowski. "One of my own technicians, her niece was a technician in another state, just a week ago her pharmacist was shot and killed in a pharmacy in North Carolina."

Fearful not only for their own lives, but for the drug epidemic that's taking place in their communities, pharmacists are reaching out to state law makers and local law enforcement.

"We have a big prescription drug problem in the Valley from opioid abuse, painkiller abuse, and that's where (the pharmacy) they are trying to get them from," said Sgt. Larry McLaughlin with the Mahoning County Drug Task Force. "Whether it is a fake script (prescription,) or they are trying to rob, or deception to obtain the drug in some way."

 "It's a very, very complex problem that's way more than pharmacists, it's way more than police," said Senator Joe Schiavoni. "It's everybody needs to come together and we need to really nip this in the bud."

Law enforcement say, just like them, pharmacists want to go home safely at the end of a work day. They encourage pharmacists to continue networking, know who potential suspects are, and if ever threatened for drugs to cooperate.





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