In shocking incidents described in the literature and the news, syringes of injectable pain medication have been self-injected by clinical staff for their own use, which are then refilled with inert fluids such as saline for patient use. This is only one example of drug diversion, but there are other documented ways in which medications are inappropriately pilfered from hospitals.
In the worst cases:
- Patients are deprived of important pain or anesthetic medications,
- Patients contract bacterial or viral infections from contaminated syringes or drug vials,
- Clinical staff who divert continue to work while impaired and develop patterns that lead to overdose and death,
- Hospitals face challenging public relations challenges when such incidents come to light, on top of the significant costs of internal investigations and legal recourse, and
- Staff morale suffers significantly due to the growing suspicion and unease with each other, internal investigations etc…
Dr. Patricia Trbovich’s research team has conducted several themes of research on diversion to identify how it occurs, how to safeguard against it, and estimate the cost of loss drugs. Her team is now developing a Pan-Canadian risk assessment tool for hospitals to identify their unique vulnerabilities to diversion and some initial guidance on what to do about it. The tool will launch in late 2022.