When Seattle pharmacist Mike Donohue started his career two decades ago, he never dreamed that he would someday be packing a gun each day at work. Nor did he imagine that pharmacies would require security cameras and bullet-proof glass to stop stray bullets from injuring passers by. Unfortunately, a string of 6 recent robberies has forced Donohue to adopt a siege mentality. Each of the armed robbers was seeking one thing – OxyContin.
Pharmacy robberies that target OxyContin are on the rise across the country and Washington State has been particularly hard hit. Most of the thieves are addicted to the drug and some are drug dealers who can get up to $5,000 on the street for a single bottle of OxyContin. Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, maintains an online database of pharmacy crimes that are related to the drug. The RXPatrol website shows more than 2,000 robberies reported in the past 7 years. This actual number is probably much higher since it represents only the robberies reported.
CNN recently interviewed Donohue about the latest attempted robbery of his pharmacy, which occurred just two hours after he returned from picking a suspect for an earlier robbery out of a police lineup. This time, Donohue was prepared when a man in a hooded sweatshirt presented a note stating that he had a gun and wanted OxyContin. Donohue pulled a Glock 19 handgun from a holster he wears beneath his lab coat and ordered the would-be robber to the floor, then pursued him when he ran out the door. The robber escaped but was arrested later in the day.
In many cities, including Seattle, the number of pharmacy robberies has surpassed bank robberies. Criminals who are addicted to narcotics have discovered that they can satisfy their cravings at the neighborhood pharmacy. They can also realize a large profit by selling some of the drugs they steal. Unlike Mike Donohue’s store, many pharmacies are not equipped with security equipment and are easy targets. Bill McNary, another Seattle pharmacist, has taken the drastic measure of refusing to stock OxyContin. He has posted signs at the entrances of his pharmacy telling would-be robbers that there is no OxyContin inside.
Mike Donohue has also posted a sign outside his pharmacy, but his lists the names of the men who have robbed him. All of them were eventually caught because they kept repeating their crime. The desperation for drugs has created a new type of criminal who is willing to do anything to get relief. Mike Donohue would like to see tougher penalties imposed for pharmacy robberies, but in the mean time he will continue to wear a gun beneath his lab coat.