Massachusetts Hospital Cops to Diverted Drugs

     BOSTON (CN) – The largest hospital in New England agreed to a $2.3 million settlement with the U.S. government over loose handling of drugs.
     Massachusetts General Hospital prompted the charges against it by informing the Drug Enforcement Agency in 2013 that it discovered two nurses had stolen almost 16,000 pills, mostly oxycodone, from an automated dispensing machine.
     After the discovery, MGH audited its drug supply and found more than 20,000 missing pills, as well as hundreds of missing drug records.
     With prosecutors claiming that lax security enabled MG employees to make off with narcotics, the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Monday announced the “largest settlement of its kind involving allegations of drug diversion at a hospital.”
     “The United States contends that, during the period from October 4, 2011, through April 1, 2015, MGH negligently failed to make, keep, or furnish certain records required to be kept under the act, and failed to provide effective controls and procedures to guard against theft and loss of controlled substances,” the settlement agreement signed on Sept. 28 states.
     Special Agent in Charge Michael Ferguson discussed the consequences of diverting hospital medication.
     “The diversion of prescription pain killers, in this case oxycodone, contributes to the widespread abuse of opiates, is the gateway to heroin addiction, and is devastating our communities,” Ferguson said in a statement.
     Portions of the 19-page settlement chastise MGH for not notifying the agency sooner.
     When the U.S. Attorney’s Office began investigating the hospital, MGH disclosed that a pediatric nurse abused Dilaudid at work, that a physician failed to keep track of who received his prescriptions, and that several nurses stole drugs.
     U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz meanwhile released a statement praising MGH for cooperating with the government’s investigation.
     “Diversion of these drugs feeds addiction, contributes to potential illegal drug sales, and fuels the opioid epidemic that has had a devastating effect on the commonwealth,” the prosecutor said in a statement. “We commend MGH for disclosing and addressing its diversion problems and for taking steps to ameliorate future diversion by hospital personnel.”
     MGH has since worked with the Drug Enforcement Agency and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to improve its handling of controlled substances though policy changes.

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