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Belfast pharmacist quizzed over claims she sold Lyrica to dealer

By Debroah McAleese

Published 28/04/2016

The 29-year-old woman was said to be under surveillance
The 29-year-old woman was said to be under surveillance

A Belfast pharmacist is under police investigation over the illegal supply of stolen prescription drugs to a major street dealer, it can be revealed.

The 29-year-old woman is suspected of being a Belfast drug baron's source of supply of a prescription-only medicine called Lyrica, which has become an increasingly popular street drug.

Lyrica, also known as 'bud', was among a cocktail of drugs taken by tragic west Belfast teen Aaron Strong before he suffered a massive heart attack at the weekend.

The 18-year-old is on life support at the Royal Victoria Hospital after he took the lethal cocktail of alcohol, Lyrica and the pain-killer Tramadol.

He is in a coma with brain damage and complications from kidney and liver failure.

His devastated family have urged other young people to stop risking their lives by taking lethal drugs.

A police operation against the supply of Lyrica across Belfast was launched last month.

The pharmacist at the heart of the investigation was arrested on the Antrim Road on March 16, alongside a 49-year-old man, the PSNI has confirmed.

A PSNI spokesman said the pair were arrested "on suspicion of a number of drugs offences."

The spokesman added that they are both currently on police bail pending further enquiries.

A source close to the probe said that the woman was working at a city pharmacy when she stole boxes of the drug for the dealer over several months.

"She was under surveillance for a while and is suspected of using her position as a pharmacist to access this drug and supply it to a well-known dealer who has been making a lot of money out of selling it on the streets," the source said.

Earlier this week, the Belfast Telegraph revealed that a 'Mr Big' of the Belfast drug scene was making around £3,000 a week selling the addictive prescription drug Lyrica.

He is currently under threat from republican paramilitaries after he failed to pay them a £15,000 'tax' to allow him to keep dealing in north Belfast.

Lyrica, which is used to treat epilepsy, has become a popular street drug. Users take the capsule apart, crush the contents and inject it. It is said to produce a similar effect to Valium.

Its unregulated use on the streets has begun to cause concern for the authorities.

In an article in the Emergency Medical Journal in 2013, health professionals said they had witnessed a recent increase in the number of patients attending the emergency departments in Belfast after recreational abuse of Lyrica. According to the article, from February 2012 to February 2013, 10 patients were admitted to a Belfast hospital following Lyrica abuse. Six of those patients had suffered seizures. Two patients required intubation and ventilation and were admitted to the ICU.

"Patients are either taking tablets whole or cutting and snorting them. 60% of patients in this case series presented to the Emergency Department with seizures and 20% required ICU (Intensive Care Unit) admission," the article said. It continued: "We recommend that patients who present with potential Lyrica toxicity should be admitted for observation, with the treating physician being mindful of the potential for seizure activity."

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