Drawn by addiction and the prospect of big money, criminals looking for powerful prescription painkillers are targeting local pharmacies, says the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Federal authorities in Seattle are pursuing four high-profile drug-store robbery and burglary prosecutions. Twelve of those indicted have pleaded guilty to crimes related to the theft and sale of painkillers and other drugs, and another dozen face charges. While thieves aim for a variety of prescription drugs, pain pills are among the most sought after, said federal prosecutor Ron Friedman. Citing Drug Enforcement Administration statistics, Friedman said Washington led the nation in pharmacy break-ins in 2005 with 48 burglaries. That compares with three in 2002.
Oxycodone and hydrocodone painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin currently fetch $20 to $40 per pill on the street. Federal officials estimate that about 11.3 million Americans misuse prescription painkillers each year — nearly twice the number that use cocaine. While robberies are more dangerous, burglaries garner more money for criminals — sometimes as much as $200,000 in medication, said Richard Conklin of the Stamford, Ct., police, who directs RxPATROL, an industry initiative aimed at tracking drug theft. “This is going to be the trend,” he said. “It’s gaining in speed and force, and it’s not going away.”