Northville, MI (Law Firm Newswire) July 5, 2017 – Authorities are investigating multiple cases of suspected opioid and drug theft by doctors, nurses or pharmacists at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals. Employees at VA health facilities are suspected of stealing prescription drugs for personal use or sale.
The Associated Press (AP) reported that VA medical centers have more than double the rate of missing drugs than the private sector. The VA inspector general’s office launched 36 new criminal investigations into prescription drug theft or unauthorized use at VA facilities between October 1 and May 19. The department currently has 108 open criminal cases involving drug theft, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
“The data indicates the VA’s drug theft problem is not going away. The VA needs to re-examine its policies to enhance drug safety across its entire network of hospitals,” commented Jim Fausone, a Michigan veterans’ attorney. “Of particular concern is the fact that drug theft can put patients at risk of harm. Employees found to be guilty of stealing prescriptions should be held accountable for their actions.”
The VA promised “zero tolerance” to opioid and drug theft following the February AP report that revealed an increase in the number of cases involving missing or stolen drugs at VA facilities since 2009. The department responded by announcing plans to conduct more inspections, subject employees to drug tests and audit data to identify problems.
However, investigators said it was difficult to determine whether the new safeguards have been effective. They emphasized that continuing drug theft prevention measures were necessary at VA medical facilities. The DEA said that the VA may have misclassified certain cases of missing drugs, attributing them to reasons such as transit problems rather than employee theft.
Acting VA Assistant Inspector General for Investigations Jeffrey Hughes warned, “Veterans may be denied necessary medications or their proper dosage and medical records may contain false information to hide the diversion, further putting veterans’ health at risk.”
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