In 2010, overdosing on drugs became the leading cause of injury death in the United States — passing motor vehicle crashes in the age group 25-64 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those 38,329 overdose deaths, 60 percent involved prescription drugs.
Police around the country fight to keep pace with the ever-expanding theft and consumption of prescription medication, a pattern that varies from one region to the next.
Two companies have come together to help police agencies nationwide by hosting training courses that show police what to look for and the tools that can help.
FBI-LEEDA, a law enforcement executive leadership training provider, partnered with Purdue Pharma L.P., a privately held pharmaceutical company, to travel from one agency to another throughout the United States to train police on preventative measures for prescription drug abuse.
“Pharmaceutical Drug Diversion Training began in November of 2010, and we’ve since trained approximately 1,899 officers in 28 classes,” said John P. Gilbride, Purdue’s director of controlled substance compliance and law enforcement liaison programs.
“We discuss current trends in abuse: What’s being used and how, how it’s being sold, how much it costs, how to recognize and prevent diversion scams like doctor shopping and prescription fraud.”
One and two-day eight-hour courses are available, designed for departments who have an interest in an overview of the program and for those that have a more advanced interest, respectively. The class takes place at a host police agency, where members of departments from the region can come to take part. Information about the course and how to sign up can be found at www.FBILeeda.org.
“I was notified through a training bulletin that the training academy was [hosting the class] so I attended with one other officer from our agency,” said Chief Jeff Sherrard of the Prospect, Ky. Police Department, who attended the two-day class in April.
“The instructors broke down how doctors write prescriptions, the terminology that they use so that we could understand what all that stood for, so that if you’re called into a pharmacy or you’re at a traffic stop, you know what it is you’re looking for,” said Chief Sherrard.
Attendees of the course are given National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI) cards, which contain pictures and descriptions of commonly abused and diverted drugs. The cards are a small, handy resource officers can keep on them to refer to in the field.
“[The course] didn’t change our process. What it did was bring a number of resources to life for us,” said Chief Sherrard. “There’s a system in place called RxPATROL® that tells you of the pharmacy break-ins in your area. I can see the thefts that have taken place in the whole state of Kentucky and can see what’s been stolen.”
With RxPATROL® in place, police can see the most common days for pharmacy robbery, the most common kinds of drugs that are stolen, the number of males versus females committing thefts, their ages, et cetera.
“That information is always very well received,” said Gilbride. “We have officers that come to us and say ‘I didn’t know this was the most common time frame for pharmacy robberies to occur’ and then they can adjust their patrol routes accordingly.”
The class is interactive, and can go in several directions depending on the location and the drug problems in that area.
“They tell us what they’re seeing on the streets and their biggest problems so that we can give them direction and go over scenarios. Like, ‘What would you do if a pharmacist calls and says someone handed them a fraud prescription?’ Then we go through that process.”
Though the instructors at FBI-LEEDA enjoy training as many participants as possible, they don’t ask that “x” number of officers attend the course. The class size generally ranges from 25 to 75 officers, and the knowledge and resources can be brought back to the department and dispersed among officers.
“I would recommend the class to any department that has a drug unit or officers [specifically] responsible for enforcing drug laws,” said Chief Sherrard. “I think it was good training, and they gave us a lot of useful resources.”
Officers who have attended the course often reach out to the instructors after to share their experience and to get additional handouts, brochures and NADDI cards to disperse to their department.
“We’ve heard of some officers who attended the class, listened to the pharmacy safety presentation, and went out and spoke with local pharmacy owners — [discussed] what type of alarms and video systems they should have and gave them tips,” said Gilbride.
One of the biggest eye-openers from the course is that a lot of abused drugs are legitimately prescribed and filled and then shared with or stolen by family or friends.
Those who are prescribed medications should take the amount directed by their doctor, and any “leftovers” shouldn’t be kept in the house. Pharmacists can inform you how to dispose of any extra medication.
For more information on combating prescription drug diversion and abuse, visit www.rxsafetymatters.org.