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Stranger steals Chicago area woman's opioid prescription, prompting concerns amid epidemic

Stranger picked up Chicago area woman’s prescription opioids; she says no one seems to care
Stranger picked up Chicago area woman’s prescription opioids; she says no one seems to care 05:57

RIVERDALE, Ill. (CBS) – It might seem like many people have been fighting off a cold, which means they might have had to make a trip to their local pharmacy recently.

If anyone needed anything with certain levels of pseudoephedrine, they had to show their driver's license to get it.

Even with online orders nowadays, when they're picking up the medicine, stores often ask for ID before they can take the items home. However, that is not the case in Illinois when it comes to the prescriptions of some highly addictive narcotics.

One Riverdale woman told CBS 2 she fears her pills are in the wrong hands.

It takes a person who's organized and responsible to keep the many prescriptions of Doris Jones straight.

"I have quite a few doctors appointments and I have quite a few medications," Jones said.

For years, she's worked closely with her care team to find the right dosage to ease the pain of a chronic back condition. The Riverdale resident said one has made the biggest difference: oxycodone.

"I had seen on the news a couple times about 'opioid this and opioid that,'" she said. "I told my husband, I was like, 'Oh my god, that is serious!'"

And so Jones made sure she handled the narcotic with respect and care. She reached out to CBS 2 when it seemed her pharmacy didn't.

After her previous pharmacy closed, Jones said she moved her prescriptions to a CVS in Riverdale. She called in a refill of her oxycodone and another prescription. On Oct. 24, 2023, at around 1:30 p.m., she said she received a text saying it was ready. But when she got to the counter, the oxycodone wasn't there.

"She said, 'Oh, you picked that one up already,'" Jones said. "I said, 'What? Where's my other prescription?'"

Jones told the pharmacy she hadn't picked up the medication.

"She put her hand up to her mouth and she was like …'I gave away 90 oxycodones!'" Jones said. "I said, 'Well, do you know how they look? Who was it?' She said, 'Well, he knew your name and he knew your birthday.'"

Bewildered and without her one-month supply, Jones headed home and talked to a Riverdale police officer. Police filed a report and labeled the incident as identity theft. Officers talked to the pharmacist, who admitted to giving the pills away to a man "after all pertinent information regarding Doris J. Jones identity was answered." Police said the other person "left the area in a black SUV" and "CVS cameras were not able to capture the plate." Jones wanted a look at the video, but investigators refused.

"If it's somebody in my family, who best to identify them other than me?" she said.

But Jones doesn't believe it was anyone she knows. So a mystery man, possibly a stranger, in the hour and a half between her getting the text and showing up to the pharmacy, drove up, gave her name and birthdate, got her pills, and took off in view of cameras that allegedly caught no helpful identifying information. It happened four months ago, and Jones can't seem to find anyone who cares.

Jones said she's heard "nothing" from either CVS or Riverdale police since reporting the stolen medication.

CBS 2 also spent a month trying to reach Riverdale's police chief and other in the department for any update on where the case stood via email, voicemail, and in-person visits with no response.

A CVS spokesperson said the person picking up for Jones gave the "identifying information requested … validating a relationship with her." But in the age of identity theft, CBS 2 wanted to know, since when does knowing a name and birthdate guarantee a relationship?

Showing a photo ID could have led the pharmacy to a suspect. CBS 2 found at least 20 states with language on the books requiring a photo or government ID for those picking up drugs like oxycodone, including Wisconsin.

But in Illinois, customers are asked for ID when buying Sudafed, but not when picking up the highly addictive narcotic. 

But why is that?

That's the company policy, and it follows state law. So, in handing over the 90 oxycodone, the Riverdale CVS did nothing wrong.

"I'm thinking, 'Has it happened before? Has it happened since?'" Jones said.

How can other customers keep it from happening to them? Like in other instances when it comes to health care, by advocating for themselves and telling the pharmacist specifically who is allowed to pick up any their prescriptions.

"The idea that it's 90 pills out there is an opportunity for at least one, if not more, people to start to have a problem," said Sterling Elliott, a professor at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine who shared Jones' concern.

Elliott focuses on how patients use opioids safely, and he called what happened to Jones' pills diversion.

"They're moving it out into a secondary marketplace in the street, and that's a whole other realm of danger," Elliott said. 

It's that behavior that fuels the nation's epidemic. The CDC's latest data from 2021 show 45 people died each day from prescription opioid overdose.

"I do know that I don't want to be a part of that. No," Jones said.

It's why she's desperate for someone to care about what happened to her prescription.

"That worries me that people die from that," she said.

That's why she's desperate for someone to care about what happened to her prescription. She's still filling prescriptions at the Riverdale CVS.

She told CBS 2 that the pharmacist asked for her ID when she was picking up, but they don't anymore.

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