How One Missouri Pharmacist Battles Prescription Drug Abuse in His Community

Mar 23, 2016

Richard Logan’s pharmacy has been on the same street in Charleston, Missouri, for 40 years. Picture rows of wrist wraps, antacids and the like in front of the counter, and rows of prescription medications behind it.

It’s your typical pharmacy with one big “except.”

“The ‘except’ only comes if you come in with an intent to break the law,” Logan says.

The lawbreakers he’s talking about are those who come to his southeast Missouri pharmacy with forged or fraudulent prescriptions for opioid painkillers like oxycodone and fentanyl.

This may be one of the absolute worst pharmacies for someone to try to pass off that kind of bogus prescription. That’s because, in addition to being a pharmacist, Logan is also a reserve deputy with two local sheriffs departments.

“I’ll usually walk out to the counter and have a discussion with the person” with the illegal prescription, Logan says.

“Usually that conversation involves a badge. Sometimes it involves handcuffs.”

Richard Logan has been a pharmacist for 40 years and in law enforcement for more than 20.
Credit Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA

While Logan’s reputation may help him keep pill seekers out of his own pharmacy, Missouri pharmacies have become a target for people seeking prescription narcotics for illicit use.

In part that’s because this is the only state without a prescription drug monitoring program ­– a database that would allow pharmacists like Logan to review a patient’s history with prescription narcotics to look for signs of abuse.

Since there’s no database here, keeping that history hidden is as easy as paying cash for prescription narcotics.

“Other states are doing everything they can to address that,” Logan says, “Missouri is doing nothing.”

“That’s very frustrating. To my mind, it’s criminal.”

Even without prescription drug monitoring, pharmacists are required to make sure the prescriptions they dispense are both legal and legitimate. Logan says that leaves Missouri pharmacists with a lot of guesswork, and looking for red flags.

“Is this a cash prescription? Have you seen the patient before? Is the prescription from a provider with whom you are familiar?”

But even Logan, a pharmacist for 40 years in law enforcement for more than 20, says he still has to rely in part on his gut.

“You just have to get, basically, a warm fuzzy feeling from this patient to make sure that you’re not dispensing something that shouldn’t be dispensed.”

Without a database, he says, it’s bound to stay that way.