Pharmacist decries easy drug availability

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Pharmacist Daryl Tomkin no longer dispenses Oxycodone/Oxycontin products

Pharmacist Daryl Tomkin no longer dispenses Oxycodone/Oxycontin products in his Hauppauge pharmacy. (June 22, 2011) Photo Credit: David Pokress

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Joye Brown Newsday columnist Joye Brown

Joye Brown has been a columnist for Newsday since 2006. She joined the newspaper in 1983 and has

There's a sign on the door. And on the counter of Tomkin's Pharmacy-Health Care in Hauppauge.

The pharmacy does not carry oxycodone/OxyContin products, opiates related to the more than 10,000 hydrocodone pills that authorities said was taken from a Medford pharmacy Sunday.

"We want to make that clear from the start," said owner Daryl Tomkin. "When people call asking, we tell them the same thing."

The signs went up one and a half years ago -- long before a gunman killed four people and stuffed narcotics into a backpack.

"Why didn't he walk in, wave the gun and demand what he wanted?" Tomkin said, repeating a question asked by many of the mourners who continued to gather outside Haven Drugs in Medford Wednesday.

"What happened over there, that it resulted in the loss of four lives, is demented," Tomkin said. "It is unheard of, what he did, something that cruel and that demented."

About a decade ago, Tomkin was in his pharmacy during an armed robbery, he said.

But he didn't decide to stop carrying oxycodone until 2010, after two armed robberies within weeks of each other at the store, which is located in a busy strip mall.

Tomkin's decision to stop selling the narcotics had to do with more than the robberies, however. "We've got a problem," he said. "It is impacting all of us."

The problem, Tomkin said, is that doctors are prescribing the narcotics more than they need to and to more patients than they should.

"Ten years ago, this was a drug that was used on cancer patients," Tomkin said Wednesday. "Now, people can get it for back and other aches."

It was one thing when terminal cancer patients became addicted, he said, "We don't want anyone to spend their last days in pain."

But it's something else when patients who started out taking the drug for pain began to become addicted. "They will begin to doctor shop and shop for pharmacies," he said.

Tomkin said he began to see that in his own business.

"I started to get customers from out of the area, people walking in, people calling in," he said.

To this day, he said, the business sometimes gets calls.

"We tell them, no, we don't have it, we don't carry it," he said. It's gotten to a point, he said, that among addicts, "it seems like almost everyone knows who [which pharmacies] has got it and everyone knows who doesn't."

Tomkin said he was stunned when he heard the news about the Medford slayings.

"Everyone's been hurt, everyone's been affected," he said. "We've lost four lives and the lives of four families have been ruined."

He said he believed the suspect had to be held accountable, again voicing the sentiment of many in the steady stream of mourners in Medford who said they favored a death penalty in the case. "Four people killed . . . " Tomkin said. "It shouldn't have been this easy."

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