Keep Signs of Drug Diversion on Your Radar

Theft of opioids and other controlled substances by pharmacy staff is leading to big problems...fines, loss of license, jail time, etc.

Recently a pharmacist AND a technician were sentenced to prison for diverting...and illegally distributing...thousands of controlled substance medications from their pharmacy.

Keep in mind that no employee is immune to drug diversion or misuse...and the stakes get higher the longer it goes on.

Use these tips to help spot and prevent diversion in your pharmacy.

Stay alert for red flags. Keep an eye out for issues, such as higher-than-normal quantities of controlled substances being ordered, missing stock bottles, or frequent inventory discrepancies.

Watch for coworkers being in specific areas or staying late without good reasons, wanting to handle controlled substances, or showing behavior changes (moodiness, etc) or signs of impairment (slurred speech, etc).

Work as a team to implement safeguards. For instance, you can reduce opportunities for theft by double-counting controlled Rxs, rotating who stocks meds, and keeping coats and personal items outside of the pharmacy.

Identify weak spots...and take steps to decrease vulnerability. These include areas where security cameras may not reach...controlled meds are left on the counter for a long time...or there's unauthorized access.

Keep expired or damaged controlled meds in a locked or monitored area. Meds that are waiting to be returned may be ripe for diversion...especially since they may have already been subtracted from inventory.

Report any suspicions. Speaking up saves lives.

Follow your pharmacy's policy...which generally involves notifying your manager or corporate office. They may need to investigate the situation...inform authorities...or help impaired coworkers get treatment.

Get our special report, Controlled Substances: Preventing Diversion, to learn more about spotting and deterring theft.

Key References

  • Am J Health Syst Pharm 2017;74(5):325-48
  • J Am Pharm Assoc (2003) 2018;58(3):275-80
Pharmacy Technician's Letter. Mar 2019, No. 350311

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