Indiana Pharmacy Robberies Increase Amid Stronger Restrictions on Opioid Prescriptions

From 2009 to 2016, there were 651 pharmacy robberies in the state of Indiana, ranking it highest in the nation.
Published: June 27, 2017

The state of Indiana has implemented practices leading to cutbacks on over-prescribing by doctors. In turn, officials have seen an increase in pharmacy robberies.

Between 2009 and 2016, the state of Indiana had 651 pharmacy robberies, making it number one in the nation, reports the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Second highest on the list is California with 597 pharmacy robberies. The population of Indiana is six times smaller than California.

In 2015 alone, there were 168 robberies in Indiana — twice the number compared to the previous year. These 168 robberies alone, according to the Associated Press, inundated the black market with over 200,000 pills, mainly painkillers.

Numerous states have cracked down on “doctor shopping” (visiting multiple doctors to increase the likelihood of being prescribed painkillers) as the widespread opioid epidemic continues to sweep the nation. Although these crackdowns are well-intentioned, it has done little to improve drug use statistics.

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New changes implemented in 2013 now require patients to visit their doctors on a regular basis to refill their prescribed painkillers. Doctors are also required to use a statewide online database to monitor their patients’ use of controlled substances.

Both dealers and addicts are finding ways to work around these new restrictions.

“They’re always looking for wherever they can get their foothold. And once they do, they’re going to take advantage,” said Tom Prevoznik, a deputy chief of pharmaceutical investigations with the DEA in Arlington, Virginia.

Large pharmacy chains (including CVS and Walgreens) have installed time-release safes which take a few minutes to open, creating a larger risk for robbers if they wait. In turn, burglars are now targeting smaller pharmacies in suburbs that they know may not have these time-release safes.

Lieutenant Craig McCartt of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department says 85 percent of all pharmacy robberies that occurred in the state in 2015 were committed by juveniles who had been recruited by drug dealers, promising money or gifts.

In a study conducted by the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, additional alarming statistics on drugs use in Indiana were reported, including:

  • In 2014, 1,100 residents died of drug overdoses; a 500 percent increase from 1999
  • Indiana is 15th in the nation for drug overdose deaths
  • Approximately 5.3 percent of Indiana residents reported using painkillers without a prescription
  • Over 21 percent of Indiana high school students have reported the use of prescription drugs without a prescription
  • 12.2 percent of Indiana residents who are prescribed opioids are between the ages of 18 to 25; the national average for this demographic is 9.5 percent

Indiana’s next stop to deter pharmacy robberies will come in July, imposing longer sentences for people who threaten or injure others during pharmacy robberies.

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