1. daturaonfire
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    daturaonfire Senior Member

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    Stealing Drugs?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by daturaonfire, Jun 21, 2009.

    Hi All,
    Does anyone know where drugs are kept in a hospital? Is it just a storage room, or is there a specifc name for it? I have a character who steals drugs from a hospital, so I was wondering. I've googled it, but I can't find any info.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Hospital drugs, particularly controlled substances, are kept in the pharmacy or a dispensary. In either case, they are under guard or electronic security at all hours, and only certain hospital personnel will have direct access.

    The security is not foolproof of course, and drugs may be diverted after they have been ordered for a patient. There may be bribes to falsify tracking records. But it's not as easy as picking the lock on a cabinet in a storeroom.
     
  3. daturaonfire
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    daturaonfire Senior Member

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    Thanks for the info Cogito. :-D
     
  4. zaphod
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    zaphod Member

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    Can I tell astory I heard from this girl I know?

    So this girl works in a Krogers grocery store in Knoxville, TN. One night a crack fiend comes into steal from the pharmacy. Except the store is open 24 hours a day. What the guy does is sneak into the deli area (which is closed after 10). He stands up on a fryer to climb up into the tiled ceiling, and planned on walking along the girders, unseen, into the pharmacy. So a few late night shoppers and employees hear a "clomp clomp clomp" sound up in the ceiling. Knowing someone was up there, a bunch of random people follow the guy's sound around, and poke at the ceiling with brooms. The clomping gets faster as he runs to the pharmacy, then boom, the dude falls from the ceiling hurting himself badly of course.

    I dunno, watch the local news. Occasionally ive noticed stories of buglars trying to get in by unusual methods. Usually the fire department has to come and extracate them from some weird position before the police can arrest the person.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    nurses and doctors can't just run to the pharmacy, whenever a patient needs something at times other than for pre-scheduled dosing, so they are also kept in locked cabinets 'on the floor' at the nurse's stations, for quicker delivery, when needed...
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Maia, I was referring to in-hospital pharmacies and dispensaries. Some medications are indeed kept at nurse's stations, but not controlled substances. Daturaonfire seemed to be talking about that kind of drugs.

    An in-hospital pharmacy is essentially a dispensary that will also fill prescriptions for patients. An ordinary dispensary tracks all medication for the hospital (or hospital division), and distributes it for inpatient care as ordered by the physicians. The dispensary also distributes the medications that are stocked at the nurse's stations. All discrepancies between drugs delivered to the hospital and tracked usage are the dispensary's responsibility.
     
  7. daturaonfire
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    daturaonfire Senior Member

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    XD This is just awesome. It reminds me of my hometown, when a man tried to hold up a gas station with a half-eaten burrito. On-Topic: Thanks for the replies, everyone. :-D
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry to keep disagreeing, cog, but even 'controlled' drugs have to be kept in the locked areas of nurses' stations, since they could be needed stat and in large hospitals, the patients could die, before a delivery run from a far-away pharmacy can be completed!

    there are strict rules for keeping track of all deliveries to and amounts used from that nurse's station storage area... and a spare key to it is usually kept in the pharmacy...

    btw, my mother was an RN for 50+ years, my father was a hospital administrator, and i've worked in both a hospital and run a doctor's office across the street from one... plus, having had 8 pregnancies and given birth 7 times, in addition to being beset with assorted related problems necessitating hospitalization, i've spent way more time than i'd have liked to, as a patient who needed those drugs faster than they could have gotten to me from the pharmacy! ;-)

    if you still think you're right on this, see just one general take on the subject here:
    http://books.google.com/books?id=K4IRyqfnIpYC&pg=PA15&lpg=PA15&dq=are+controlled+drugs+kept+at+nurse's+stations+in+hospitals%3F&source=bl&ots=3rQdNJyEWr&sig=RiBiojWUwYMj3ec4GUgayAcEegE&hl=en&ei=u_0_StapB4mKsgOBi9CQDw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1
     
  9. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    When my wife's mother was in the last throes of cancer, her narcotics and steroids were kept in a locked medicine cabinet at the nurses station. Late on a Friday night, she suffered a surge in pain and her doctor ordered an increase in narcotics that they were able to administer immediately because the drugs were close by. (She died that night.)

    The next day, her unused medications were destroyed by the pharmacy because once they have been issued they apparently cannot be returned to stock. I suppose a "bad" employee could divert those "left over" narcotics assigned for destruction. I don't know how closely the pharmacy monitors such disposal.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Very closely. The entire lifetime of controlled substances is scrutinized extremely closely.

    My girlfriend is a registered nurse, and so I have some idea of the firestorm that arises if there is any discrepancy in the records.
     
  11. rory
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    rory Contributing Member

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    Slightly off, but still kinda on, topic: Have you watched any or that TV series Firefly? Besides it being one of the best programs ever made, there is one episode where they steal a bunch of drugs from a hospital with the help of a doctor. So they knew the layout and what security codes, etc, they would need. I think the episode was called Ariel? Not sure. Anyways, you could give it a watch to see if it helps you our at all, it's a sci-fi show, so it might not if you writing more realistically.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    despite all the security measures, drug theft by staff members is still a major problem in most hospitals...

    and salty's first-hand experience should be ample, albeit sad proof of what i said about controlled drugs and the nursing stations' storage of same, doncha think, cog?...
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    No argument there, Maia. The security measures do have holes in them, and the regulations get continually tighter as a result. But the motivation to circumvent the system is also high.

    Physicians write orders for drugs that never make it to the patient. Paperwork is falsified, key people are bribed. Drugs that are supposed to be destroyed get diverted.

    As soon as there is a crackdown to break one drug theft scheme, another scheme begins. The people stealing the drugs know the security measures in great detail, so they know where the weaknesses are and how to exploit them.
     
  14. samessex
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    hey. I work in a hospital and medication is either kept in a locked cupboard or usually a trolley. Also, Control Drug Substances like methadone, Subutex, etc are kept locked in side a cupboard, inside another cupboard, with two different keys to open it. These drugs have to be signed in and out of a control drugs book. This cupboard is also ragbolted to the wall.

    Hope this helps! :)
     
  15. Ragnar
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    Ragnar Contributing Member

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    Your character can also fake symptoms for a sickness that requires the drugs he's after. The research is a tad easier to do than when actually stealing the drugs, and with thorough research and decent acting skills I'm sure he can pull it off.
     
  16. ChaseRoberts
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    ChaseRoberts Senior Member

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    In addition, the ward safe can only be accessed in the presence of two TRAINED members of staff. Everything must first be counted, logged in the book, and checked against the last recount. If there is a discrepancy, it must be recounted again, and then the SCN would get called. The last staff members to open the safe would be quizzed, and, in some cases the police would get called.
    Should the numbers be the same, then the medication would be removed, checked by the other nurse, and then the medications would be counted again (not just the figure they had, minus what they just took out). This is then written, signed and countersigned in the book.

    NOW

    To steal a Schedule 1 or 2 drug (the lock up ones), it is tricky, but it can be done. You will however, require to be a member of staff, and working in a clinical area where rules are not strictly adhered to. It used to be easier, but then Dr Shipman caused the rules to be tightened.
    In the case of a patient refusing their medication, or tablets dropped on the floor, usually (although not supposed to) they are dropped in the nearest clinical waste bin or sharps bin. In the case of Controlled Drugs, these are supposed to be locked back up where a specialist disposal person sent from the Pharmaceutical Society themselves will come along and destroy them by grinding them up, mixing them with water and then pouring the mix into kitty litter (I know, it's odd, but it does work). This kitty litter is then taken and incinerated.
    In the case of working with people who are unable to communicate, who are possibly senile, stroke victims, or seriously ill, often you find one nurse administering the CD's, as opposed to the two it should be. It would be easy to pocket the medication in this case, and just note up that the patient took the meds. Of course, this is highly dangerous and illegal, and puts the career on the line.

    My personal suggestion is this: Community Pharmacies. In Britain, at least, the easiest way to obtain these drugs is to hold the shop up. Seriously, forget skulduggery and subterfuge. I've worked in a community pharmacy, and our training basically told us to stand aside in the event of a hold up, give them what they want, and offer them a carrier bag to take it all in. All you would need to do is have a disguise, a getaway car, go into an urban pharmacy, ideally in a deprived area (more drugs and greater liklihood that the staff will just stand aside and not try anything heroic), hold up the shop, take all the CD's, and throw in some Diazepam for the hell of it, why not, take the security tape from the machine and leave, ensuring gloves are worn and the hair is tied back lest some DNA escape. No hassle, no fuss. The pharmacy is insured, so they're not out of pocket, and you've got a bag full of good drugs.

    Hope that was helpful.

    Also, what drugs is it they are stealing? They might not be Controlled Drugs. In Britain we have this: www.bnf.org - it is the bible for drug information. America should have something similar. It will tell you whether it requires stringent measures, or not so stringent measures for lock up. Some drugs that, to me, are both dangerous and wildly fun if taken in combinations, aren't required to have any tight rules and regulations.
    I had to fire someone once in the pharmacy. She was working in the front shop, and ordering Loperamide Hydrochloride (otherwise known as immodium). She was ordering sixty, ninety tablets at a time, in the dispensary sized boxes, and none of them were going through to the back shop, since the orders were done seperately, no-one noticed at first. We happened by accident onto it, and waited until the delivery came in, then did a 'random bag search' completely on agreement on all members of staff, apart from herself. She may have been doing it for years, and to this day, we never knew exactly what she wanted with anti-diaorroeah medication (although it is an opiate, it has none of the fun properties that make opaites bad).
    Things like Tramadol (Zydol), Dihydrocodeine, Lorazepam, Diazepam and Zopiclone are not controlled, and, especially in a high turnover pharmacy area, are often kept in loose boxes of 1000's. It is incredibly easy to knock one over, scoop them all back and pocket a good few for yourself in the process.
    For drugs to murder people, you can't go much worse than insulin, warfarin, digoxin or phenobarbital, all of which are relatively easy to swipe from a pharmacy. Insulin is more tricky now, thanks to Colin Norris, but there's still plenty of scope for misuse.

    It is, at this juncture, where I would like to state for the record that although I know all this, it is in order to further my awareness of what can and can't kill a person, to stop me doing it in error, and not so I can commit a crime. Although, for my writing, this stuff does actually help. My father told me how to kill someone with insulin when I was 13 and writing a story where someone was murdered in hospital. He's a pharmacist, so I've learned a lot.
     
  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    This happens in clinics all the time, and it's a real problem. Fortunately, most of the people who do that aren't very bright, and a good clinician will catch on almost immediately.

    Unfortunately, though, plenty of clinics don't care, and some clinicians will look the other way -- especially if a few dollars change hands.
     
  18. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Follow the unfolding investigation of Michael Jackson's death. The coroner's department seized two bag of prescription drugs at Michael's home and a comment was made that most of them were written to people other than Michael. Hmmm....
     
  19. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    That is outside of a hospital setting. I'm not sure how relevant that is to te original question.
     
  20. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    not at all relevant... a whole 'other' major prob...
     
  21. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    God forbid that I might offer a variation on a theme -- diverting prescription drugs for illicit use. If offering such idea-stimulating suggestions is irrelevant, then I won't bother any more.
     
  22. ToxicWaste
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    I'm not expert on the handling of prescription drugs, but even in pharmacies one can see that some drugs are kept out in the open or in unsecured cases and others almost appear to be held in "dispensing safes." These appear to be metal boxes with a dispensing tube and a key pad. This is probably to prevent a robber from forcing the pharmacists to open the box or to prevent the pharmacists from stealing pills.

    However if you are looking to figure out how pharmaceuticals get onto the streets, look no further than Broward county Florida, Painer Paradise. It has hundreds of crooked "pain management clinics" that will basically hand you hundreds of pills for nothing more than an MRI photo that shows a minor back problem and several hundred dollars. When I say they give away hundreds of pills I mean just that, they prescribe more pills in a month than any "straight" doctor would prescribe in a year. Some addicts will walk in and come out with two baggies filled full of opiate pain killers and benzodiazepines.
     

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