How to protect your facility from drug diversion

News headlines are filled with stories of how addiction to prescription painkillers have led to thefts committed across the nation’s hospitals and clinics. However, the prescription painkiller addiction crisis does not exist just outside the domain of the long-term care industry. As the nation’s addiction epidemic continues to churn, the problem is creeping ever closer to home. 

For example, in 2016, an Alabama nurse at a nursing home and rehabilitation facility in DeKalb County, was arrested amid allegations that she stole about 90 hydrocodone pills. The woman hid her alleged crime by claiming she administered the drug to residents in higher doses than other nurses and failing to document actually administering the medication. A routine audit of the facility's drugs found the discrepancy.

When cases of diversion such as this and others happen, it puts the facility and its residents in danger. However, this danger can be avoided with a solid anti-drug diversion program. The following tips can help support your facility in combating diversion.

Recognize the signs of abuse.

A healthcare professional that diverts medication may also be working while impaired. Be vigilant about the signs of prescription drug abuse in employees, which include:
• Constricted pupils
• Fatigue
• Itchy skin or scratching
• Chills/sweating
• Euphoria
• Insomnia
• Depression
• Needle track marks
• Anxiety/paranoia
• Runny nose
• Vomiting or diarrhea

Educate your staff
Observation is one of the most important aspects of fighting drug diversion. Educate your staff periodically about recognizing the tell-tale signs of a drug-seeking employee. For example, some drug seekers may steal medications like fentanyl patches off a resident’s body. Staff members should look for pain medication patches that have been tampered with or damaged. Also, educate employees about suspicious behavior and work patterns that may indicate drug diversion such as frequent or long trips to the bathroom or drug storage area.
Handle waste properly.
One of the ways drug-seeking employees can obtain medications is by diverting waste. Establish a set of secure medication wasting policies and procedures and make sure all staff members are educated about them and follow them without fail.
Have a way to report
Employees are vital to fighting drug diversion so it’s important to provide a reliable and safe method for them to report possible thefts or suspicious behavior. Whether it’s a telephone tip hotline, email drop box or just a confidential face-to-face conversation, employees must have a safe space to report signs of drug diversion.
Update your systems. 
Utilize smarter systems and technology to combat diversion. Move medication storage and management containers to secure areas with surveillance cameras. Also, consider automated dispensing technology to secure and manage emergency and first dose medications. Automated dispensing provides quick access to medications while increasing security and tracking usage. The more secure and advanced systems reduce errors, report discrepancies, and deter diversion.

To learn more about strip packaging for medications or automated dispensing technology, click here to contact Turenne PharMedCo Pharmacy Services.


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