Down Town

The sedative Rohypnol is illegal in the United States. Which probably goes a long way toward explaining why it's so easy to find in Miami.

The DEA has confirmed that at least one box of tablets came to Miami directly from Colombia; agents also say pills are being exported from "any Latin American country where Roche has a manufacturing plant," as one official puts it.

"I reported at a federal meeting a couple of weeks ago that Miami was the only city seeing this as a new drug," Jim Hall says. "That enhances speculation of a Colombian connection. They might now be in the process of test-marketing it in Miami. We have been the first entry point for new drugs in the past. We were one of the first to report crack. And now rophies."

If they are in fact the source for Miami's burgeoning supply of Rohypnol, Colombian druglords can't take all the credit for the little white pills with the big kick. New Jersey-based drug giant Roche can share that honor. "Over the past several years, on one to two occasions, we've been asked to identify the tablet for an arrest or whatever," confirms Barbara Johnston, the company's assistant director of policy and communications. "We had no idea that this was a problem in the United States, although we are aware of some problems in Western Europe. We have packaging and manufacturing plants throughout South America. If the DEA were to ask our help, we'd be extremely responsive, as we've always been in the past. We do a lot to support education regarding the proper use of pharmaceutical products. We think that's critical. We have security at all our plants, and we cooperate with authorities to make sure our products are not used illicitly or illegally. But we have no knowledge of this being a problem in the U.S.

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