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Drug diversion creates serious risks for patients

Drug diversion, or the act of a health care professional taking prescription drugs meant for patients and using them personally, is a growing problem in hospitals and other health care settings across New York and the nation. Drug diversion involving opioids is especially problematic. When doctors, nurses and others treat patients while under the influence of these drugs, it often has a serious impact on the quality of care provided.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug diversion raises the risk of the following taking place in U.S. health care settings.

Medication denial

When a health care provider takes drugs intended for a patient, that means the patient receives less, if any, of the drugs they actually need. This may result in the patient feeling serious pain the drugs would have otherwise prevented.

Infection risks

Research shows that there is also a connection between health care providers diverting drugs and the chances of a health care setting experiencing an infectious outbreak. In one instance, the drug diverting actions of an emergency room nurse in Washington state caused 12 patients to develop hepatitis C.

Substandard care

Drug diversion may also have a direct impact on the level of care a health care provider offers. While under the influence, a doctor, nurse or other professional may miss medication deadlines or administer the wrong amount of medication. He or she may also neglect to check on patients or administer medications using dirty or tainted needles, among other problems.

Hospitals that fail to prevent drug diversion may face sanctions and regulatory liabilities.