Standardizing Drug Diversion Programs

As healthcare providers, it’s our responsibility to ensure that our patients receive the right medications at the right time. Sadly, diversion, or the theft or misuse of controlled substances, has become a serious issue in healthcare settings. In addition to compromising patient safety, drug diversion can also result in significant financial losses and regulatory penalties.

The good news is that we can prevent much drug diversion by implementing effective monitoring and mitigation programs. However, not all approaches to drug diversion are created equal. To truly make a difference, we need to adopt the best practices in diversion monitoring and prioritize them as part of someone’s job description.

Standardizing a drug diversion mitigation and monitoring program is essential for ensuring that every healthcare facility has effective measures in place to prevent diversion. Here are a few best practices that we recommend:

1. Conduct regular, ongoing training for all healthcare professionals involved in the drug handling process. This includes pharmacists, nurses, physicians, and other staff members who have access to controlled substances.

2. Create strong, written policies and procedures that detail how medications should be stored, administered, counted, and disposed of. Make sure that everyone involved in the medication handling process understands these policies.

3. Develop a robust drug diversion monitoring program that includes regular auditing and review of all medication transactions. This will help facilitate a quick detection and response to any potential diversion.

4. Use technology to your advantage by adopting electronic systems for medication tracking and inventory management. These systems can provide real-time information on drug utilization and help identify suspicious activity.

By standardizing these best practices, institutions can create a culture where drug diversion prevention and detection are a top priority. Instead of merely reacting to incidents of diversion, healthcare professionals can proactively work to prevent them from occurring in the first place.

We conclude by posing a few questions, as food for thought for further standardization:

  • Should there be a national standard or reporting requirement for data to further encourage the adoption of effective drug diversion mitigation and monitoring programs?

  • Would requiring core elements or data reporting – similar to what Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) requires for antimicrobial stewardship – incentivize facilities to prioritize drug diversion, thereby holding them accountable for their efforts?

In summary, drug diversion is a significant issue that threatens patient safety and healthcare system integrity. With the right strategies in place, we can prevent diversion before it occurs. By standardizing best practices in diversion monitoring and mitigation and implementing national requirements, we can create a safer, more accountable healthcare system.

Terri Vidals
Terri Vidals

Terri has been a pharmacist for over 30 years and is a drug diversion mitigation and monitoring subject matter expert. Her years of experience in various roles within hospital pharmacy have given her real-world insight into risk, compliance, and regulatory requirements, as well as best practices for medication and patient safety.

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