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More than 2 million Americans have a problem with prescription painkillers, says the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Now Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane has announced that the supply of illegally-distributed painkillers in this state just got significantly smaller.

“We have dismantled a prescription drug ring that was a major source of supply in Philadelphia,” Kane said in a statement yesterday. According to authorities, nearly two dozen people participated in the wide-ranging drug syndicate. The state says it uncovered “approximately 550 fraudulent prescriptions” over the course of nearly two years and in 44 counties across Pennsylvania, all in connection with the same suspected group.

The attorney general’s office says the group was based in Philadelphia and relied heavily on forgery and runners to con pharmacies and evade detection. One of the individuals charged, Quiana Bostick, 35, a Rite Aid employee from Philadelphia, allegedly “changed doctors’ phone numbers in her employer’s database” to another phone number answered by the suspected leader of the drug ring, Kevin Andrews, Jr., 37, of Delaware County. Authorities claim Andrews would then “confirm” forged prescriptions for pharmacists calling to verify them.

The state’s allegations say Andrews drove runners to pharmacies as far as Erie, Pa., to evade detection. According to the attorney general, Andrews “coached associates buying the prescriptions, suggesting they look injured with slings or bandages and advising them on what might trigger suspicion so they could abandon the transaction.”

In all, 22 people, mostly suspected drug runners, were ensnared by the investigation. Kane said the group illegally “obtained more than 59,000 oxycodone pills” and profited “$1.7 million.”

The state plans on trying the defendants in Blair County, about 230 miles, or about a four-hour drive, from Philadelphia.

“The diversion of prescription narcotics in the Commonwealth feeds addiction to even deadlier street drugs, like heroin,” Kane said, asserting that 90 percent of all heroin addicts debriefed following state investigations “report that their addiction began with prescription drug abuse.”

 

About The Author

Contributing columnist

Josh Kruger is an award-winning writer and commentator in Philadelphia. His @PhillyWeekly column, “The Uncomfortable Whole,” took the First Place Spotlight Award for weekly newspaper commentary from the Society of Professional Journalists in both 2014 and 2015 and the Second Place Award for weekly newspaper commentary in the U.S. and Canada from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia in 2014; and, the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association presented him with the Edith Hughes Emerging Journalist Award in 2015. Along with his column, Josh blogs daily for PW on various topics including queer culture and news, mass transit, politics, crime, drugs, HIV/AIDS, civil liberties, activism, media and everything else Philly.

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