Drug Abuse by Healthcare Professionals Puts Patients at Risk

The prescription drug epidemic in our country reaches deep into the medical community. More than 100,000 doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers across America struggle with addiction to narcotics, such as oxycodone and fentanyl. Their problems are especially difficult to detect due to the knowledge and access these professionals have to narcotics and other prescription drugs on a regular basis.

"Drug diversion," the official term for stealing drugs, by a single healthcare worker can endanger thousands of patients. An itinerant hospital technician who was caught injecting himself with patients' pain medicine and refilling the same syringes with saline caused nearly 8,000 thousand people to require hepatitis testing, and eventually infected at least 46 people.

Oversight mechanisms used to detect, report, and address drug problems in healthcare environments are haphazard and largely ineffective, leaving much of the damage unnoticed and undocumented.

Substance Abuse Risk

A USA Today review of government data and independent studies on drug abuse among healthcare practitioners caught diverting drugs indicated that an average of 103,000 doctors, nurses, technicians, and healthcare aides were abusing or dependent on illicit drugs. Some studies indicate the problem could be much worse, estimating that 1 in 10 practitioners will fall into drug or alcohol abuse at some point in his/her life.

Unlike other high-risk industries, safeguards to prevent and detect drug abuse in healthcare are rarely employed. No state has universal drug testing requirements, and many institutions lack video surveillance or high-tech systems to monitor dangerous drugs.

Also, many states lack regulations to ensure that medical facilities alert law enforcement if employees are caught abusing or diverting drugs. As a result, these staffers are often released, only to find new jobs without treatment or intervention. Even if they are caught or reported, it is rare for a practitioner to receive disciplinary action for drug abuse until they have committed multiple infractions.

Possible Solutions

To prevent theft locally, one large healthcare facility, Genesis, uses a secure drug dispensary system. Much like an ATM machine, surveillance cameras monitor the machines, access is limited to a few personnel, and withdrawals are reviewed by two reports.

Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyers

If you have been injured or a loved one has died due to the negligence of a healthcare professional, the Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers at Golomb Legal can offer expert advice on your legal issues. Our experienced Philadelphia medical malpractice attorneys work with clients on a one-on-one basis and help determine the best course of action for each individual situation.

To learn more about your legal options or to schedule a free consultation call the Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers at Golomb Legal today at 1-800-355-3300 or 1-215-985-9177 or fill out our confidential Contact Form.

The medical malpractice lawyers at Golomb Legal have successfully represented injured individuals in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and throughout the United States.