'It's a never ending battle'
Pulaski is hoping fingerprints will curb OxyContin abuse
The system's manufacturer said Pulaski is the only town using the invisible fingerprint system to target OxyContin abuse.
By JENN BURLESON
The Roanoke Times
Pulaski pharmacies plan to strike back at illegal OxyContin users with a few dabs of invisible ink.
The Pulaski Police Department is providing the six pharmacies in town with fingerprint kits. Pharmacists will ask customers requesting OxyContin prescriptions to dip their forefinger in invisible ink then stamp it on special paper. The prints will be attached to the prescriptions and kept at the pharmacy.
If officers find out that a prescription has been stolen or falsified, they can identify a suspect from the prints. Officers hope the fingerprints will curb people from stealing or writing false prescriptions for the highly addictive drug.
GENE DALTON/The Roanoke Times
|The fingerprint system used at the Pulaski Food Lion for customers who pay for groceries with payroll checks is the same one pharmacies will use for OxyContin prescriptions. As clerk Dee Dee Arnold demonstrates, the print is made on a piece of paper which is stuck to the back of the check.
When abused by addicts who crush the pills and then snort or inject the powder, OxyContin is the pharmaceutical equivalent of heroin. Since 1998, 37 people west of Roanoke have died of overdoses attributed to oxycodone, the active ingredient in OxyContin.
The fingerprint system, manufactured by the South Carolina-based company CrimeBite , is already used in several grocery stores before payroll checks are cashed. If a check comes back as counterfeit or stolen, management can find the perpetrator through their fingerprint. President of CrimeBite, Lydia del Rossi, said Pulaski is the only town she knows of that is using the invisible fingerprint system to target OxyContin abuse. There are some psychiatrists using the system before dispersal of narcotics in Louisiana.
But OxyContin isn't the only drug officers are worried about. Fingerprints may also be taken before several other narcotics are administered. Pharmacists will meet with officers on July 18 to decide how the kits will be used.
"If we take just one or two bad bottles off the street a month then we've accomplished a lot," said Detective Marshall Dowdy. "I feel like we're making progress, but I also feel like sometimes it's a never ending battle."
It's not clear how many cases of false prescriptions occur in the town. Pulaski Kroger Pharmacist Leslie King said she knows of very few occasions where someone has stolen and filled a prescription. But she is interested in expanding the program and fingerprinting additional customers to make sure the right people get their medications.
"Once that fingerprint is there, it's hard to say you didn't do it," King said. "I don't know if it will cut down on people who are using it, but maybe it will make people realize it is a felony."
As part of the program, officers are also talking to residents about which medications are a hot commodity and what they can do to protect their prescriptions.
Statistics are not available from the Police Department, but Crime Prevention Officer Vicky Frazier said the rate of larcenies has increased since OxyContin come into the area. Police statistics show that between January and June of this year there have been 1,800 drug-related cases in the town of 9,500 people.