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Drug ‘diversion’ by medical professionals can harm patients

On Behalf of | Oct 19, 2021 | Medication Errors

In the medical industry, it’s called “drug diversion,” which sounds pretty innocent. But it means stealing and abusing medication, usually powerful painkillers, meant for patients.

Unfortunately, healthcare professionals are not immune to the risk of drug addiction. But their access to drugs can lead to serious incidents of medical malpractice.

How medication theft endangers hospital patients

One of the biggest dangers comes in when these doctors, nurses and others with access to medication try to cover their tracks. As an expert on the problem explained to NPR, a worker might steal a vial of fentanyl from their hospital’s supply cabinet. After using the drug on themselves, they replace the liquid fentanyl with water.

If a nurse administers the vial to a patient, the patient could contract a serious, chronic disease. For example, a study by the Mayo Clinic found that up to 28,000 patients were potentially exposed to Hepatitis C over a decade due to drug diversion and the use of unclean needles. Imagine being diagnosed with a serious disease because a medical professional injected you this way. Or that you are in the hospital, needing a specific medicine, but there is not enough to save your life because someone falsified the inventory records.

The size of the problem is unknown

The extent of drug diversion in America’s hospitals may never be fully known. But it obviously happens often enough that you cannot guarantee you won’t be affected someday. Addiction can take over a person’s life, but that is no excuse for neglecting the health and safety of your patients. The stakes are simply too high.