Pharmacy techs part of prescription drug abuse

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – In January, the Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy got off to a fast start, handling some of its most serious, unusual cases of the year.

Pharmacy board records show that Walters, 40, confessed to diverting between 3,000 and 4,000 tablets of hydrocodone while working at a Walmart in Sequoyah County, which borders Arkansas.

Walters had been in trouble with the law before, but she lied on her pharmacy technician application form and was able to begin working in close proximity to thousands of doses of highly addictive narcotic drugs.

And though she was fired from her job at Walmart, a search of Oklahoma’s criminal records databases indicates that Walters has not been charged with any crime related to the diversion of the hydrocodone tablets – at least not yet.

John A. Foust, executive director of the pharmacy board, said the problem of pharmacy technicians stealing narcotics is one of the biggest issues his board deals with on a consistent basis.

“We see them in here during just about every board meeting,” Foust said during an interview with The Oklahoman. “They are not licensed, like pharmacists are, so for many of them it’s just like losing a job, not necessarily a career. It appears to be worth the risk to many of them.”

Each year, the board disciplines pharmacists, pharmacies and pharmacy technicians. While pharmacists are licensed by the board and are required to hold advanced degrees to practice in Oklahoma, the technicians who assist them are merely required to obtain a permit.

During the 2014 calendar year, the pharmacy board met in seven of the 12 months. And during each board meeting, at least one pharmacy technician was disciplined in cases involving drug thefts from the workplace.

Some of the thefts were minor. Others, like Walters’ case, were more serious. Many of the pharmacy technicians who confessed to stealing drugs were later charged with felonies in district court. Some were not charged, though it’s unclear as to why.

After board members dealt with Walters and revoked her pharmacy technician permit, they heard about the case of Nicol Talamantes, who claimed she was stealing hydrocodone from her job at Walgreens “because she was being threatened by another person.”

Unmoved, the board revoked the woman’s technician permit. She had already been fired from her job at a Walgreens in Sand Springs.

Talamantes, 22, was charged with larceny of controlled drugs on Oct. 28, 2013, after she had confessed to Sand Springs detectives that she’d stolen roughly 700 hydrocodone tablets during a four-month period in 2013.

“Talamantes states she was being threatened by one of her child’s fathers who stated that if she didn’t bring him pills, he would kill (her) and her children,” a Sand Springs detective wrote in a police report.

The police report lists the total value of the pills at just under $380, but Oklahoma drug agents say they are worth far more on the black market.

One technician disciplined during that first meeting, Cody Zimmer, had his permit revoked because he was convicted of first-degree manslaughter after he was involved in fatal car accident back in 2011.

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Pharmacy techs part of prescription drug abuse
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