Posted On: May 10, 2014 by Montross Miller Muller Mendelson & Kennedy

Drug Diversion Contributes to Medical Errors

pill%20bottle%2032.jpgIt’s a little known term that has potential to seriously increase the risk of medical errors and compromise patient safety. The term “drug diversion” refers to the stealing of pharmaceutical drugs by healthcare workers, like doctors and nurses. Those drugs are meant for patients and are intended to treat life-threatening disease and severe pain. Substance abuse is a major problem in the American health care sector, and has the potential to be a serious patient safety threat. The problem is magnified because the drugs are so easily available to the abusers.

According to a review of data conducted by USA Today, more than 100,000 medical professionals, including health aides, doctors, nurses and medical technicians, abuse drugs or are addicted to prescription medications. Many of these personnel find that it is often very easy to feed their addiction by stealing the pharmaceuticals because they work in a profession that places them in very close proximity to the drugs.

Drug diversion is widespread in the healthcare industry, although exact statistics about the volume of drugs that are stolen every year are unavailable. However, medical malpractice lawyers are aware of several recent healthcare infections that occurred in clinics and hospitals after technicians and nurses used medical products, like syringes were meant for patients.

According to the USA Today analysis, the incidence of substance abuse and addiction is high in the stressful workplace of the modern American hospital. The healthcare industry is filled with highly stressful jobs and the people who work in a high-pressure environment can make even the smallest of mistakes. These errors can cost someone's life. Not surprisingly, the combination of stress and substance-abuse magnify the risk of medical errors.

Moreover, medical workers find it very easy to feed their addiction by stealing drugs from the hospitals and clinics where they work. The most dangerous aspect of the problem is that there's very little actual data on the severity of the problem. The “100,000” number, for instance, comes from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, but it is likely that the number is far greater.

Some groups have attempted to address the problem. For instance, in 2013, the Journal of the American Medical Association issued a call for hospitals to undertake random testing of doctors for drug and alcohol abuse. This falls in line with the results of several tests conducted by trucking companies to detect drug abuse and alcohol addiction among truck drivers. Many other industries including the railways and aviation, where impaired personnel could cause serious damage, also have such random testing procedures in place. The healthcare sector however, hasn't made the appropriate efforts to keep pace.

That reticence by hospitals to mandate random alcohol and drug testing for physicians needs to end. The risk to patients from impaired medical personnel is too high to ignore this problem any longer.

The Indiana medical malpractice lawyers at Montross Miller Muller Mendelson Kennedy LLP are dedicated to the representation of persons who have been injured due to the negligence of medical professionals, like doctors and nurses across Indiana. If you have suffered due to the negligence of a health care professional, consult an experienced medical malpractice attorney at our firm.