An evaluation of bylaw and policy changes on pharmacy robberies in British Columbia
From 2012 to 2013, pharmacies in Vancouver British Columbia experienced a 160% increase in community pharmacy robberies, often being targeted for their prescription opioid medications. Perpetrators of pharmacy robberies were often armed with weapons including guns, knives and pepper spray.
In response, the College worked with representatives from law enforcement, pharmacy, and the BC Pharmacy Association to develop a set of pharmacy security requirements aimed at reducing pharmacy robberies and protecting confidential patient health information.
The pharmacy security measures were first introduced through a new policy in 2015, and later transitioned to bylaw in 2017. The cornerstone of the measures was the requirement that all community pharmacies store certain narcotic drugs in a time-delayed safe. The implementation of these measures has resulted in a significant decrease of pharmacy robberies in British Columbia.
Pharmacy robbery counts, 2001–2016
The Figure above displays the bi-annual counts of pharmacy robberies across the province. The vertical line indicates when the College’s pharmacy security measures came into effect. The reduction of robberies is evident after the measures were put in place.
In 2018, Dr. Martin Andresen, Professor of Criminology and Director of the Institute for Canadian Urban Research Studies at Simon Fraser University, conducted a comprehensive evaluation of the College’s security provisions and found strong evidence supporting the relationship between the reduction in pharmacy robberies and the security measures.
The report details the significant reduction in pharmacy robberies through an immediate drop in areas such as Vancouver, and a decreasing trend in areas such as the Lower Mainland (not including Vancouver) and the Interior. Most notably, Dr. Andresen’s report outlines an immediate 94% decrease in pharmacy robberies in Vancouver as a result of the bylaw and security policy changes.
“These findings may have implications for other pharmacies in Canada. British Columbia has been experiencing the greatest volume of opiate-related deaths in Canada (Special Advisory Committee on the Epidemic of Opioid Overdoses, 2018). As this use spreads to other areas of the country, the implementation of similar bylaw and security policy changes in other areas of Canada could be used to reduce levels of pharmacy robberies and burglaries and, potentially, reduce opportunities for access to these drugs in other areas.”
(Andresen, Mann, Hodgkinson, Thacker & Nakagawa)
Dr. Andresen’s report and evaluation contributed to the Council on Licensure, Enforcement & Regulation (CLEAR) presenting the College with the 2018 Regulatory Excellence Award for our work on pharmacy security measures.
Read Dr. Andresen’s report “An evaluation of bylaw and policy changes on pharmacy robberies in British Columbia” (2019), published in Crime Science Journal.