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Druggists in the middle

Local pharmacists feel like they are under siege.

A Lockport pharmacy was robbed by an armed thief who stole OxyContin from the store.

A South Buffalo pharmacy was robbed by a man wearing a surgeon's mask, who jumped over a counter and stole more than 1,300 oxycodone pills.

And Niagara Falls pharmacies were put on high alert after a Niagara Falls doctor accused of overprescribing pain medication was shut down by federal agents.

"My problem is we are not police officers. We don't carry guns, we don't have handcuffs, and we should not put our pharmacists in jeopardy in light of the fact that these people are desperate," said Amherst pharmacist Dennis Galuzzi, who serves as executive director of the 400-member Pharmacists Association of Western New York.

Pharmacists here and throughout the country find themselves in the middle of the latest drug war, as addicts crave the prescription narcotics that are stored on the shelves of their drugstores.

A Buffalo pharmacist, in fact, confronted accused drug dealer Michael McCall even before the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration charged McCall last summer with operating the largest prescription drug ring ever uncovered in Erie County.

Pharmacist John Vinti said he banned McCall from his High Street pharmacy after other customers complained that McCall was confronting them outside the store, trying to buy prescriptions.

"I don't know what evidence they have on Mike, but I know that no pharmacist ever wants to become part of a situation where drugs are being diverted to the wrong people," Vinti said. "I've been in the business for 30 years, and my partner and I have turned many people away when prescriptions don't look right."

lmichel@buffnews.com; dherbeck@buffnews.com

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