NEWARK, N.J. – Reputed street gang members, organized crime associates and at least two pharmacists were arrested Thursday, accused of being part of a ring that sold the powerful painkiller OxyContin (search) in the Boston area, authorities said.
Authorities were still carrying out search and arrest warrants Thursday morning, and planned to release additional details later in the day.
At least two pharmacists, two members of the Bloods street gang (search) and "two known organized crime associates" had been arrested by midmorning, Union County Prosecutor Theodore Romankow said.
The ring operated from Arizona to Boston, and was based in New Jersey, said Robert O'Leary, a Union County prosecutor.
"This case is highly unique in that it involves traditional organized crime figures, street gangs and pharmacists selling OxyContin in huge quantities over the counter," O'Leary said. "They were all making megabucks doing this.
"The OxyContin wound up in the greater Boston area, where it wound up on the street," he said.
OxyContin was initially hailed as a breakthrough in the treatment of severe chronic pain when it was introduced in 1996. The drug has become a problem in recent years, however, after drug abusers discovered that crushing the time-release tablets and snorting or injecting the powder yields an immediate, heroin-like high.
The drug has been implicated in more than 100 overdose deaths nationwide.
Prescription painkillers such as OxyContin now rank second to marijuana as the most-abused drugs in the country, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (search).