Prescription drug diversion and theft is nothing new in healthcare. It is so common that many facilities have implemented procedures to prevent drug theft and diversion. Unfortunately, as soon as a new procedure is put in place the ever resourceful thieves come up with other schemes designed to fool the system. On a recent trip to visit surgery centers in the northeast, I had several interesting conversations with nursing staff and even an accreditation inspector on some of the methods being used to steal drugs. By sharing these alarming practices, I hope you will stay on the lookout for suspicious activity in your facility.
- Many facilities place their used sharps containers in a shipping/receiving area for their local contracted medical waste company to pick up. Knowing that many sharps containers contain opened vials of drug that have not been completely used, thieves are disguising themselves as the contracted waste pick-up driver and simply walking into the shipping/receiving area and taking the sharps containers without any questions from the staff. It is important that a staff person identify the pick-up driver as an actual employee of the medical waste company. Document that the driver is who they say they are, i.e., document employee or driver number before letting them leave.
- If using pre-drawn syringes of anesthesia drugs or narcotics, expel all remaining contents of the syringe into a non-recoverable container. Non-recoverable containers can be made by placing a paper towel or other absorbent material in the bottom of the sharps containers. Any liquid placed in these containers is then absorbed and rendered useless. The drugs have significant street value and drug users and sellers will go to great lengths to steal these products.
- Some drug diversion teams are working together within the facility. In one instance, a purchasing agent, a receiving person, and a person in the accounting office were working together to steal drugs. The purchasing agent was ordering the product, the receiving person was stealing the product, and the accounting person was doctoring invoices and packing slips to eliminate any record of traceability of the product being ordered or received. It is very important to have checks and balances in place within the facility so that one or several people can’t get away with these types of activities.
I’m sure there are hundreds of more ways to create drug diversions. If you know of other schemes or have methods that you are using to prevent this problem from happening, please share them with us and we will be happy to post them.