Pharmacies battle prescription drug abuse


MISSOULA, Mont. - Edna Herron has worked at Lolo drug for more than 25 years. In that time, she says thieves have targeted the store 26 times, and last year it hit a breaking point.

"A guy came in, walked back to the prescription drug area, and he got his gun out," said Herron. "Dean struggled with him and got the gun away from him, and the guy took off."

Herron says Dean, the store's former owner, took no chances after that.

"He had his gun ready all the times," said Herron.

Pharmacist Ross Roadarmel says while thieves hit Lolo Drug at least once a year, doctor shoppers and prescription fakers come in almost every day.

"Yesterday, two people came in, gave clues that I need to look and looked and both of them went away disappointed," said Roadarmel. "You can't look at any one person and say they're an abuser, this one is not. They come in all shapes, sizes."

Roadarmel says a new tool is helping pharmacists fight the abuse.

"This is where the prescription monitoring program has really come into help us. Any suspicion we can now quickly get on it and find out the individual's filling history."

The prescription monitoring program is a registry based in Helena that will track when and where people get their prescriptions filled.

"I think it's already an effective tool."

Governor Steve Bullock helped set up the registry. But he says more pharmacists and doctors need to get on board.

"It still needs to expand quite a bit," said Bullock. "There are still only about 15 percent of doctors who are using it."

Roadarmel says he takes the prescription drug problem personally.

"To think that people would break our trust, both the prescriber and the pharmacist," said Roadarmel. "That they would come in, knowing that they have every intention of putting this drug on the street - that's an anger for me."

But he says he's up to the challenge.

"That's a challenge, but that's something that - hey let's roll up our sleeves and work on this together."