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Drug Theft Rampant At VA Hospitals

Update Date: Feb 21, 2017 08:30 AM EST

Federal authorities are reported to be stepping up in their investigation of drug theft in Department of Veterans Affairs medical enters. There has been a sharp increase in opioid theft, missing prescriptions and unauthorized drug use.

NBC News reported that doctors, nurses and pharmacy staff of federal hospitals, mostly affiliated by the VA, have looted controlled substance for their own consumption or street sales. Drugs intended for patients have mysteriously disappeared.

Some VA hospitals are reported to be too lenient in tracking supplies that could have encouraged drug theft.  As per congressional auditors, they found four VA hospitals which skipped monthly inspections of drug stocks during spot checks. The oversight has already been noted since 2009.

Jeffrey Hughes, the VA's acting assistant inspector general for investigation, said the drug theft is an area of concern. He recommends monthly inspections to help VA hospitals uncover potential discrepancies and crime.

Opioid abuse in the United States is widespread. Many are concern if drug theft is worse at the VA hospital than in private facilities. According to a report by CBS News, VA secretary David Shulkin said that recognizes that opioid addiction is a crisis. However, the department has not provided a list of VA facilities where there have been reports of missing drugs or disciplinary actions taken.

In 2009, there were 272 cases of drug theft or losses at federal hospitals which include more than 1,100 VA facilities. By 2015, the figures rose to 2,926 though it dipped last year to 2,457.

The office of inspector general estimates that there are nearly 100 open criminal probes in VA facilities involving drug theft or loss. Just this month, VA employees were charged with conspiring to steal drugs at the a VA hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas. A pharmacy technician is reported to order 4,000 oxycodone pills, 3,300 lydrocone pills and other drugs which cost the department $77,700. The drug's street value is estimated to be at $160,000.

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