Rise in Drug Disappearance at VA Hospitals Being Investigated

Drugs losses at federal hospitals rose tenfold between 2009 and 2015.

An increasing number of suspected drug thefts at Veterans Affairs hospitals have led to multiple federal investigations.

Recently obtained government audit data revealed the extent of the drug disappearance problem at Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers, reports the Associated Press.

Drug losses or theft at federal hospitals, the majority of which are in the VA system, rose from 272 in 2009 to 2,926 in 2015. That number sunk to 2,457 incidents in 2016.

In many of those cases drug supplies, including opioids, were stolen by doctors, nurses or pharmacy staff who took advantage of insufficient drug tracking procedures at the hospitals.

Congressional audits recently found some VA hospitals were skipping required monthly drug stock inspections.

RELATED: How Video Surveillance Can Help Combat Drug Diversion

VA officials have acknowledged the inspection problems and said they are requiring hospitals to comply with inspection procedures, improving staff training and developing plans for drug tracking improvements.

“Those VA employees who are entrusted with serving our nation’s wounded, ill and injured veterans must be held to a higher standard,” Veterans of Foreign Wars spokesperson Joe Davis said.

The Drug Enforcement Administration and the inspector general’s office have both stepped up their investigations into the problem. The inspector general’s office estimated that there are almost 100 open criminal probes into the loss of controlled substances at VA facilities. The DEA reported more than 100 criminal investigations are underway.

A recent Government Accountability Office review found that drug stockpiles were not always inspected regularly between Jan. 2015 and Feb. 2016. The review found that one Washington D.C. hospital missed monthly inspections more than 40 percent of the time, mostly in critical patient care areas like operating rooms and intensive care units.

Drug theft raises the risk of veterans not receiving the proper medication. In one resolved case, a VA employee in Baltimore pled guilty to charges that he injected himself with drugs intended for patients heading into surgery and replaced the syringes with a saline solution.

Recently confirmed VA Secretary David Shulkin will be faced with the challenge of correcting the drug theft problem at the roughly 160 medical centers and 1,000 clinics in the VA system.

It is unclear how the drug theft problem at federal hospitals compares to the problem at private hospitals, which have also seen a rise in drug disappearance as the country’s opioid abuse crisis continues.

Read Next: Woman Caught Impersonating Doctor at Boston Hospitals

If you appreciated this article and want to receive more valuable industry content like this, click here to sign up for our FREE digital newsletters!

Leading in Turbulent Times: Effective Campus Public Safety Leadership for the 21st Century

This new webcast will discuss how campus public safety leaders can effectively incorporate Clery Act, Title IX, customer service, “helicopter” parents, emergency notification, town-gown relationships, brand management, Greek Life, student recruitment, faculty, and more into their roles and develop the necessary skills to successfully lead their departments. Register today to attend this free webcast!

Get Our Newsletters
Campus Safety Conference promo