A task force led by the Drug Enforcement Administration forced independently-owned Lansdowne Pharmacy to indefinitely cease drug sales Thursday after the business was suspected of illicit opioid distribution.
Virginia State Police, the Virginia Board of Pharmacy and the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office were part of the task force assigned to investigate the pharmacy.
Sheriff Mike Chapman (R) told the Times-Mirror the investigation has gone on for several years and that the pharmacy — which is located at 19465 Deerfield Avenue in Leesburg — is suspected of "improper, illegal dispensing of opioid-type drugs," including hydrocodone, oxycodone and fentanyl.
"The investigation involves the unusual combination of drugs being prescribed, people coming from outside areas to get the drugs out of this particular location," he said.
The shutdown is an administrative action by the Board of Pharmacy. Law enforcement has not made any related arrests — "at least not yet," Chapman said.
According to DEA group supervisor Jose Roman, the number of opioid prescriptions Lansdowne Pharmacy has been filling is about twice the average number filled by pharmacies nationwide.
"We learned that there were individuals coming in from as far as 300 miles away, driving sometimes six, eight hours to this area to get prescriptions at this particular pharmacy," Roman said.
"The DEA's priority is [to target] opioid trafficking, whether it's through illicit opioids coming across the border in the form of fentanyl or in cases like this with pharmacies ignoring red flags and not showing due diligence with serving their customers," Shane Todd, DEA assistant special agent in charge of the Washington Division Office, added.
While Lansdowne Pharmacy will be prohibited from selling drugs until further notice, Chapman said customers will still be able to purchase other products in its inventory.
"[Authorities] are going to collect all the drugs out of there, shut this down and effectively put them out of business --at least for now," the sheriff said. "It's great because we all worked together ... to bring an end to this, as much as we can."
One hundred-thirty Americans die from an opioid overdose on an average day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Opioids are currently the leading driver in overdose deaths and were involved in 47,600 such fatalities nationwide in 2017 — more than two-thirds of all overdose deaths that year.
"We know how bad the opioid problem is out there, so whatever we can do, whether it's through criminal indictments, whether it's through administrative action, whatever it takes to bring an end to this problem, we try to do," Chapman said.