A string of pharmacy robberies across the Bay Area for coveted prescription drugs - especially the opiate, oxycodone - is causing police agencies and drugstore owners to be concerned.
One of the most recent burglaries was this weekend in Fremont at Haller's Pharmacy and Medical Supply, Fremont police said. That's when two armed men took a bottle of oxycodone with a street value of $900. The store was also robbed in April.
"It's so scary people coming in with a gun in your face as a pharmacist all we're trying to do is serve the public," pharmacist Gary Basrai said.
To see the surveillance video from Haller's, click here:
On the Peninsula, the pharmacy at the Palo Alto Medical Center Foundation on El Camino Real was broken into on March 2. Stolen drugs included oxycodone, methadone and morphine. Detectives soon figured out that more prescription drugs had been stolen from an expired medical locker. That led them to him to an employee - Jerry Silveira, 34, of Santa Clara.
Palo Alto police arrested him on March 5 as he left work, and said they found methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia and stolen prescription drugs. In all, police believe Silveira stole more than 10,000 pills.
Oxycodone is a poppy-derived, German-founded drug and falls in the opiate category, such as morphine and codeine. OxyContin is the most popular brand name for the drug. If used properly and legally, the drug helps manage chronic pain.
"On the street it's anywhere from 25 to 50 dollars a tablet so if you pick up one bottle of 100 you're talking 5,000 dollars and sometimes they can get four to six bottles and just take two minutes to get this," Basrai said.
Prescription pain killer thefts are a nationwide problem. In Ohio, for example, a senator there introduced legislation last summer to crack down on drug robberies and stiffen the penalties for pharmaceutical theft.
The Associated Press reported that armed robberies at pharmacies rose 81 percent between 2006 and 2010, from 380 to 686, according to the the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The number of pills stolen went from 706,000 to 1.3 million. Thieves are overwhelmingly taking oxycodone painkillers like OxyContin or Roxicodone, or hydrocodone-based painkillers like Vicodin and Norco. Both narcotics are highly addictive.
In New York state, the number of armed robberies rose from 2 in 2006 to 28 in 2010. In Florida, they increased nearly six-fold, from 11 to 65. California saw 61 robberies in 2010, Indiana had 45 and Tennessee had 38.