Hospitals need to tighten up drug diversion prevention

Secure automated pharmaceutical dispensing units on hospital floors may be giving a false sense of security to hospitals, as the instances of "drug diversion" are rising nationally.

Take Rose Medical Center in Denver, where a former surgical technician injected herself with Fentanyl, refilled the syringes with saline and placed the syringes back on anesthesia carts. She will be going to jail, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Denver, but 17 patients infected with Hepatitis C face medical and mental health repercussions that could last longer.

While most hospitals have automated dispensing units (ADUs) on floors to keep drugs locked near patients who need them--with, oftentimes, two employees needing to input security IDs to retrieve various drugs and narcotics--those security measures cannot extend to when the medications are distributed on the floor.

The liability issues are increasing the calls for pharmaceutical compliance officers. All hospitals should have procedures in place that include, among other things, validation of a medication's use through patient medical records and a regular review of dispersal records from ADUs against inventory.

"There are incidents of drug diversion in every state, and every hospital at one point or another has had an incident of drug diversion," says Crystal Berumen, director of the patient safety initiative at the Colorado Hospital Association. And the penalties for not reporting incidents can be severe.

Gary Boggs, supervisory special agent and executive assistant to the deputy assistant administrator for the DEA Office of Diversion Control said that failure by hospitals to report such an incident can mean a fine of $10,000 per occurrence.

To learn more:
- read the Report on Medicare Compliance article