Abington Memorial Hospital to Pay $510,000 to Resolve Drug Diversion Allegations
Abington Memorial Hospital (AMH) has agreed to pay the United States $510,000 to resolve allegations that failures in AMH’s controls and practices enabled its employee to divert controlled substances for illegal, non-medical uses. In addition to this monetary settlement, AMH has implemented a program to prevent, identify, and address future diversions. The resolution was announced by Acting United States Attorney Louis D. Lappen.
In 2013, an investigation was launched after AMH disclosed to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that a pharmacist at AMH’s inpatient pharmacy had stolen large volumes of controlled substances (prescription medications) from the hospital. Altogether, over the course of at least 85 different occasions between February 1, 2010 and August 20, 2013, the pharmacist stole more than 35,000 pills, including highly addictive painkillers such as oxycodone. DEA’s ensuing audit of AMH’s controlled substances revealed pill count discrepancies totaling over 35,000, missing or incomplete medication inventories, and altered or missing drug records, all in violation of AMH’s responsibilities under the Controlled Substances Act and federal regulations.
In a related federal criminal matter, in 2015, the AMH pharmacist, Renata Dul, pleaded guilty to 25 counts of possession with the intent to distribute oxycodone and was sentenced to six years of imprisonment and three years of supervised release.
Since the investigation began, AMH has worked cooperatively with the DEA and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to address the identified deficiencies in AMH’s handling of controlled substances. The plan includes upgrades to AMH’s inpatient pharmacy computer systems; physically enclosing the controlled substances vault; installing new and additional security cameras and badge swipe access; adding a rotary depositary safe; adding a new, locked controlled substances and anesthesia carts; retaining outside consultants to review and improve AMH’s controlled substances policies and practices; purchasing additional intravenous lock boxes; creating a Drug Diversion Prevention & Monitoring Committee and a Task Force for Controlled Substances Infusions-Wasting; improving inventory practices to account for bulk and unit dose medications broken down individually; instituting daily, biweekly, weekly, monthly, and yearly controlled substances-diversion monitoring activities; centralizing the ordering of controlled substances; increasing training for proper controlled substance storage; tracking serial numbers used in dispensing of controlled substances script pads to nursing units; and revising controlled substances policies and procedures to ensure uniformity and require biannual review. In addition, AMH has hired and trained a lead supervisor pharmacy technician, on a full-time basis, whose primary responsibility is monitoring the controlled substances operational workflow from ordering through dispensing.
“Hospitals like Abington Memorial have a special responsibility to ensure that controlled substances are used for patient care and not diverted for non-medical uses,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Lappen. “Diversion leads to illegal sales of addictive prescription drugs that have had a devastating impact on members of our community. We commend Abington Memorial Hospital for disclosing its diversion problems and for working to improve its practices and address potential diversion by hospital personnel.”
“The illegal diversion of prescription medication is a violation of federal law and of primary concern to the DEA. All too often the diversion and misuse of powerful prescription opioids such as oxycodone leads to heroin use, overdose, and even death,” said Gary Tuggle, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s Philadelphia Field Division. “We are confident that the steps that Abington Memorial Hospital has taken to secure controlled substances will prevent incidents such as this in the future.”
The case was handled by Assistant United States Attorneys Mark J. Sherer and Paul W. Kaufman, and was investigated by DEA diversion investigators James J. Corbett and Ashley F. Wade, Group Supervisor Regina Spaddy, and Diversion Program Manager Donetta M. Spears.