Results for the Operation Faux Pharmacy were declared on Wednesday by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The operation targeted 26 pharmacies that were suspected for illegal distribution of prescription drugs and medications. This resulted in the confiscation of a total of 494,000 pills, valued at $2.8 million.
Led by the DEA’s Los Angeles Field Division, the operation included different busts taking place simultaneously in southern California and the state of Nevada, and another set of raids in Hawaii. These raids also included the efforts of 60 people, who were out of the state.
These raids resulted in four of these pharmacists to willingly surrender their licenses; whereas the others would now face civil and criminal proceedings in the months to come.
The basic mission of the operation was to crack down on all of the illicit distribution of prescribed drugs. According to the search warrants that were issued before the operation against pharmacies, these seized drugs include all kinds of opioids, along with other non-specific forms of prescribed medications, like Xanax. As per an estimate, four out of every five heroin addicts on the west coast start their addictions with such prescription pills.
“DEA is fighting the opioid crisis on multiple levels, using every resource available to identify reckless doctors and rogue businesses that fuel addiction in our neighborhoods and communities,” said the Acting DEA Administrator – Robert W. Patterson. “We will continue to identify and hold accountable the most significant drug threats, using every tool at our disposal—administrative, civil, and criminal—to fight the diversion of controlled substances.”
Deputy special agent and the officer in charge with L.A. Field Division – William Bodner, told the reporters that Faux Pharmacy was a project that took more than a year in strategizing and devising. The project’s very initial goals, he went on to explain, were to go past these small busts of doctors to target the original source of illegal prescription drugs.
“We decided to look at the root of the prescription drug problem,” Bodner had said in a statement. “Where are the prescription drugs coming from?”
The operation went on to target a total of 4,500 to 5,000 drugstores present in the area. The DEA officers accumulated all the drug tracking that they had gathered, and combined it with the data that was received from insurance and billing, provided by the Department of Health and Human Services, the state-level prescription drug monitoring programs, and the tax information provided by these pharmacists to the IRS.
Agents looked for more common identifiers of an illegal drug sale, including pharmacies that had filled remarkably high numbers of oxycodone prescriptions, high or rapid opioid sales, multiple customers with identical addresses, or customers who have to travel long distances to specific pharmacies despite having access to more convenient options. Using these patterns, DEA officers went on to narrow down nearly 5,000 pharmacies, first to 90, and then down to only 26 with unusual patterns of behavior.
The year’s worth of work has led to seizing of more than 600,000 pills, the majority of which were picked up on Wednesday.
Bodner further said that this data-driven approach would be served as the basic framework for similar stings in other states in the upcoming future raids.
“Part of the mindset here is they can take this model back and do it in other states, do a similar type of operation. It starts at the front end, a lot of statistical analysis, and then after that point, it gets into our standard investigative techniques,” Bodner had said.
Bodner also expects that these operations would allow to strongly clamp down the pharmacists who are planning on getting into the business of illegal drugs distribution.
“I think it’ll have a significant impact, because the pharmacists are now on notice because the federal government is looking at them to make sure that they are ethical and they are following the rules of dispensing,” he had said. “If they are, we applaud them, and we have no issue. It’s those that are not that we’re taking a close look at and will be coming after.”