Sarasota County Detectives believe the people involved in a prescription drug ring were able to buy more than $40,000 worth of pain pills from one small town pharmacy. In all, 29 people got their hands on about 7,000 Oxycodone pills, detectives said.
"Some people who are involved in this misuse of prescription drugs or Oxycodone are already dead of overdose," Sheriff Tom Knight said. "Some are already in state prison."
Detectives said the suspects used prescription pads stolen from Luxor Industries Physicians Group in North Fort Myers to buy the pills at the Apple Pharmacy in Englewood between June and August 2011. The suspects used cash and came from three different counties. People in Englewood became suspicious and called to anonymously tip off detectives.
"They've seen individuals in their community hanging out in the area of Apple Pharmacy who are shady; don't look like they belong in Englewood," Sheriff Knight said. "If the citizens can recognize it … you've got to ask yourself why a pharmacist in a pharmacy - an establishment - wouldn't recognize it."
The Apple Pharmacy is still open and no one there is facing charges. Michelle Malizio, a pharmacy technician, spoke briefly before the pharmacy staff shut the doors as reporters pulled up Friday.
"2011 was one doctor - we cooperate with a Doctor's office," Malizio said. "They had people in the office that were doing something illegal. We were verifying it and they were saying it was fine and it wound up not being fine."
The Department of Health closed Luxor Industries in July 2012 for being an unlicensed pain clinic.
The Sheriff used this case as a reminder that pharmacists are on the front lines of the prescription drug epidemic.
"If something doesn't look right – they need to call us and ask us but people have got to have that will," he said. "People only see what they want to see. This is going to boil down to money; going to boil down to cash."
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