Press-Republican

October 2, 2012

Schumer prescription-drug legislation set for signature

By MIRANDA ORSO
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer's legislation aimed at cracking down on prescription-drug theft is headed to the president’s desk for signature.

The Safe Doses Act passed by Congress will help law enforcement fight prescription-drug theft at every point of the supply chain, from the drug warehouse to the delivery truck to the pharmacy, Schumer said in a statement.

The legislation calls for increased penalties, more police access to wiretaps and other tools to help infiltrate drug rings.

LOCAL ABUSE

“This plan will keep drug thieves off the streets and law enforcement better equipped to combat prescription-drug theft in our upstate New York communities, and I am thrilled it is now headed to the president’s desk for signature,” Schumer said in a statement.

“The Safe Doses Act will help cops put a lid on the prescription-drug epidemic that is spilling across New York state, as well as the entire country, and will also ensure that powerful prescriptions, like Oxycontin and hydrocodone, make it from the factory to the patient and nowhere else.”

The Upstate Poison Control Center said prescription abuse cases were found in every part of the state last year, with 1,070 reported incidents in the North Country.

TOUGHER PENALTIES

Schumer said his legislation calls for increases in sentences for people who rob pharmacies seeking controlled substances while creating a new crime specifically targeting theft of medical products.

The law could also enhance a sentence for a person who is employed as part of the supply chain and steals medication or if there is a death as a direct result of ingesting a stolen substance.

Civil penalties and forfeiture of any funds made from medical product theft could also be imposed.

THEFT ON RISE

“The heavy demand for prescription drugs is often fed by pharmaceutical theft, which, whether it takes the form of robbery of pharmacies, hijacking of pharmaceutical delivery trucks or other forms of theft, is a growing concern for law-enforcement officials nationwide,” the release said.

The U.S. Division of Freightwatch International estimates $184 million worth of prescription drugs were stolen in 2009, a 350 percent increase from 2007, and the organization reported 129 pharmaceutical cargo thefts from 2006 to 2011.

The Drug Enforcement Agency also found an increase in the number of armed robberies at pharmacies from 2006 to 2010, from 380 incidents to 686.

In that same time period, the agency also reported the number of stolen pills went from 706,000 to 1.3 million.

THREAT TO PATIENTS

Schumer is worried that the spikes in this type of crime have overwhelmed police and that federal penalties for pharmacy theft are too lenient.

“Pharmaceutical theft not only leads to more addictive and illegal painkillers on our streets, it also puts in jeopardy the health of a patient who unwittingly uses these drugs after they end up on the black market or find their way back into pharmacies or hospitals (possibly re-labeled or replaced with other ingredients),” the release said.

Email Miranda Orso: morso@pressrepublican.com