(NaturalNews) Just a few months after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raided two CVS pharmacies in central Florida for ordering excessive amounts of painkiller drugs, including oxycodone (OxyContin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin), the agency is now pursuing half a dozen Walgreens pharmacies in the Sunshine State for the very same reasons, which the agency says is linked to a growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse across America.
Reuters reports that the DEA is currently investigating six Florida-based Walgreens pharmacies, as well as a Walgreens distribution center, because of a significant jump in demand for oxycodone, which is part of a class of painkiller drugs that is now responsible for killing more people every year than both heroin and cocaine combined. According to the report, no Walgreens pharmacies were listed in the DEA's top 100 purchasers of oxycodone for retail pharmacies in Florida back in 2009, but now there are at least 53 included on that list.
"The purchase of large amounts of oxycodone by a retail pharmacy is indicative of a pharmacy that fills prescriptions issued by physicians at pain clinics and/or a pharmacy which services primarily drug seeking individuals that abuse the medication," said a warrant issued under the Controlled Substances Act. Because the issue at hand constitutes "valid public interest," the DEA did not require probable cause to obtain a warrant and conduct an investigation.
The six stores in question are located in Hudson, Port Richey, Oviedo, Fort Myers, and Fort Pierce, and the distribution center is located in Jupiter. According to Reuters, one of the Walgreens stores in Fort Myers is responsible for ordering and distributing 67 percent of all the oxycodone sold in that store's zip code, which suggests that a high number of drug abusers are getting their prescriptions filled at that store.
Florida has been the subject of numerous federal crackdowns for prescription drug abuse in recent years, which last year included the indictment of 14 physicians accused of illegally writing pain pill prescriptions for drug abusers, and 19 other individuals who allegedly helped run what one Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent dubbed "the nation's largest criminal organization."
According to figures compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 14,800 people died just in 2008 from prescription painkiller overdoses. And in 2010, pharmacies dispensed a whopping 69 tons of pure oxycodone and 42 tons of pure hydrocodone, which is the equivalent of giving every single American 40, five-milligram tablets of Percocet, and 24, five-milligram tablets of Vicodin (http://www.laboratoryequipment.com).