Drug diversion, or the act of medical professionals stealing and using prescription drugs meant for patients for themselves, is a growing problem across Pennsylvania and the rest of the nation. Theft of opioids is of particular concern. However, theft and use of any prescription drug have the potential to hurt the quality of care given to patients.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, health care employers have a duty to monitor their facilities to make sure drug diversion is not taking place and penalize its workers who do divert drugs away from their practices. Otherwise, they run the risk of their employees’ actions hurting patients and potentially causing them injuries or even fatalities.

Patient harm risks

When health care providers divert drugs, it may result in them providing substandard care to patients. Patients may not receive mobility help when they need it, or they may not receive the dosage of medication they need because a health care provider took some of it. History has also linked many hospital and other medical center outbreaks to instances of drug diversion.

Outbreak risks

When doctors, nurses or other health care workers divert or tamper with injectable drugs, it raises the risk of an infectious outbreak. In the past, acts of drug diversion have caused outbreaks of bacterial pathogens and hepatitis C, which, in severe cases, may prove fatal.

When health care workers become aware of drug diversion taking place in their clinics, hospitals or practices, they must assess harm to patients and make a prompt report to the proper authorities.