Pharmacy chiefs say the new systems also help improve patient safety by helping to identify staffers who are siphoning drugs for their own use, a problem known as “diversion.” By some estimates, 15% of health-care professionals may be addicted to prescription drugs at some point in their career. Drugs may also be stolen by patients and visitors. Secure dispensing systems and tracking programs make it easier to meet increasingly strict federal regulations for documenting “chain of custody” for controlled substances.
Although there are no precise figures for drug diversion from hospitals, industry experts say drug-inventory losses cost hospitals millions of dollars a year. The most commonly diverted drugs are narcotic painkillers such as hydrocodone and morphine and the sedative fentanyl. In Minnesota, there were 250 reports to the Drug Enforcement Administration concerning theft or loss of controlled substances from 2005 to 2011. Reports grew to 52 in 2010 from 16 in 2006.
A 2011 study in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy noted that widespread adoption of automated dispensing machines has greatly improved the security of controlled substances and made it possible to electronically document the dispensing of doses and the disposal of unused medications and expired medications.
Read it all from the WSJ.