There is a growing drug problem within the Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers, according to The Associated Press. Federal authorities have set their eyes on doctors, nurses, and pharmacy staff that could be contributing to opioid theft, missing prescriptions, and unauthorized drug use.
The AP used government data going back to 2009 that oversaw more than 160 VA medical centers and 1,000 clinics. Their research concluded that many hospitals have not been tracking drug supplies properly, including the fact that four hospitals skipped monthly inspection of drug stocks altogether.
According to Drug Enforcement Administration data obtained by the AP, reported incidents of drug losses or theft at federal hospitals went from 272 in 2009 to 2,926 in 2015. It dropped to 2,457 last year.
There have already been multiple cases in which VA pharmacy employees have been charged with theft and drug distribution. Just within the past month, three VA employees were charged with conspiring to steal prescription medications, including opioids, at the Little Rock, Arkansas, VA hospital. According to the AP, a pharmacy technician used his VA access to order and divert 4,000 oxycodone pills, 3,300 hydrocodone pills, and other drugs, which cost the VA $77,700 — a street value of $160,000.
Other than contributing to the drug use problem in the U.S., when doctors and pharmacists steal drugs from clinics and hospitals, veterans face a growing problem of not getting their proper medication because there is not enough in supply.
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“Drug theft is an area of concern,” Jeffrey Hughes, the VA’s acting assistant inspector general for investigations, told the AP. He added that monthly inspections are necessary to root out crime within the hospitals and clinics. The Drug Enforcement Administration is now involved in numerous criminal investigations, according to the AP.
“Those VA employees who are entrusted with serving our nation’s wounded, ill and injured veterans must be held to a higher standard,” said Joe Davis, spokesman for Veterans of Foreign Wars.
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