Federal drug enforcers are sending in the hounds to sniff out what’s going on over at the Department of Veterans Affairs, after a recent investigation found that VA employees have been stealing prescription painkillers for somewhere around the past decade.
Records obtained by the Associated Press indicate that physicians, nurses or other hospital staff members have been thieving opioid medications from Uncle Sam’s medicine cabinet to either sell on the black market or use for their own recreational pleasure. The report shows that this problem has apparently been a normal part of the day-to-day operations of the VA’s more than 1,000 medical centers and clinics since around 2009.
While it may seem unusual that DEA monitored prescription drugs could just go missing without raising an immediate red flag, Jeffrey Hughes, the acting assistant inspector general for investigation with the VA, said hospital staff sometimes forgets to conduct the proper inspections, which leaves a door open for fiends to get their hands on narcotics. Meanwhile, other employees simply misuse their authority to get their hands on drugs.
“Drug theft is an area of concern,” Hughes said.
In Arkansas, three VA employees were charged for conspiring to steal enough opioid medications to numb most of Little Rock.
Reports show that a pharmacy technician used his or her access to the VA’s supplier to “order and divert 4,000 oxycodone pills, 3,300 hydrocodone pills,” at a cost of $77,000 to the American taxpayer. The inspector general says the group was planning to sell the pills on the black market, where they would have brought in an estimated $160,000.
There has been some pressure on the VA to gets its act together ever since a scandal erupted a couple of years ago, in which several patients died. However, a recent review of the VA’s inspection standards found that monthly drug inventories are not properly accounted for in some clinics. This puts veterans at risk of not receiving an accurate supply of medications.
The findings contained in the latest review from the Government Accountability Office has prompted the House Veterans Affairs Committee to set up a hearing to explore potential solutions to the VA’s lack of regard for inspection protocol.