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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Sirens & Gavels

Searching for robber, police find possible Oxy ring

Surveillance photo of a pharmacy robbery at the South Regal Street ShopKo 9:42 p.m. Aug. 24, 2009. The robber is described as a white male in his 20s with dark stubble and approximately 6 feet, 3 inches tall. (Courtesy of Crime Stoppers)
Surveillance photo of a pharmacy robbery at the South Regal Street ShopKo 9:42 p.m. Aug. 24, 2009. The robber is described as a white male in his 20s with dark stubble and approximately 6 feet, 3 inches tall. (Courtesy of Crime Stoppers)

A young man accused of robbing two pharmacies of OxyContin last month was to plead not guilty in Spokane County Superior Court today.

Dustin J. Rockstrom, 26, has been in jail since Sept. 15, charged with two-counts of second-degree robbery for OxyContin heists Aug. 24 at the Shopko at 4515 S. Regal St. (pictured above), and Sept. 5 at the Rite Aid across the street, 4514 S. Regal St.

In each case, a white man who appeared to be wearing a wig handed an employee a note demanding OxyContin and told the pharmacist "don't make me come over the counter," before fleeing with the drug, according to a probable cause affidavit filed last week.

Rockstrom remains in jail, but his alleged getaway driver, Aaron M. Weyrauch, 27, is in Benton County Jail and hasn't been charged in the case.

Two anonymous tips led police to the men and an apartment at 9th and Adams where they were allegedly selling OxyContin, according to the affidavit, which was prepared by Detective Kip Hollenbeck.

One informant "also revealed that Rockstrom and Weyrauch intended to rob a pharmacy in Moses Lake, WA on 9/14/09," Hollenbeck wrote. Drug detectives were already investigating the apartment for OxyContin sales. They searched the apartment Sept. 15, seizing pills, drug paraphernalia and suspected heroin. They also found the wig thought to have been worn by Rockstrom in the robberies.

Rockstrom and Weyrauch were arrested after a short car chase near 29th and Grand.

A third man, Dalen J. McMillon, 27, was with them and is under investigation for selling OxyContin with Weyrauch, according to a search warrant.

Police say he told them he knew Rockstrom and Weyrauch were responsible for other robberies, too. OxContin-maker Purdue Pharma had offered a reward for information that helped solve the robberies.

The company is touting a new version of the OxyContin pill that makes it more difficult to abuse. Read an Associated Press story on the new pill by clicking the link below.

FDA: 'limited' benefit with tamper-proof OxyContin By MATTHEW PERRONE (AP) WASHINGTON — Federal health officials say a new version of the painkiller OxyContin that is designed to be harder to abuse offers some improvements over the original pill.

Purdue Pharma LP has touted the new pill's plastic-like coating, which is designed to make the drug harder to crush and snort or inject. Food and Drug Administration scientists said Tuesday that the drug's resistance to abuse is "limited," but "may provide an advantage over the currently available OxyContin."

A panel of advisers to the FDA said last year that the company needed to do more testing to demonstrate the drug's tamper resistance. The FDA will ask the same panel Thursday whether the drug should be approved based on new data submitted by Stamford, Conn.-based Purdue Pharma.

OxyContin, the nation's top-selling prescription painkiller last year with sales of more than $2 billion, was hailed as a breakthrough treatment for severe chronic pain when it was introduced in 1996. A time-release version of the narcotic oxycodone, it was designed for use over 12 hours to keep a steady state of the painkiller in the bodies of seriously ill patients.

However, Oxycontin and similar drugs were quickly adapted by drug abusers who discovered they could get a heroin-like high by crushing the pills and snorting or injecting the entire dose at once. A federal survey conducted in 2007 found that 5.2 million people in the U.S. reported using prescription pain drugs inappropriately.

The FDA has made a number of public service advisories on the problem with little success, and more recently started pressuring companies to make pain relievers more difficult to abuse.

In August, drugmaker King Pharmaceutical's Embeda became the first painkiller to win FDA approval as a tamper-proof medication. When Purdue Pharma came before the FDA's panel last year, the company said it planned to offer tamper-proof versions of lower dose OxyContin, while keeping higher doses in their original form.

The FDA panel said that was a bad idea because doctors and physicians might mistakenly assume that all doses had been reformulated. The company has now said it will make the changes to all doses of the drug.

In documents posted online, Purdue Pharma acknowledged that no formulation "will prevent all methods of tampering that may lead to abuse."

But the company says the new version should significantly discourage abuse by making the pills more difficult and more time-consuming to manipulate.

OxyContin was the top-selling prescription painkiller in the U.S. last year with sales of nearly $2.3 billion, according to medical research firm IMS Health.

The drug accounts for more than half the market for codeine-derived drugs, which also includes Vicodin and various generic medications.

Public safety news from the Inland Northwest and beyond.