Two pharmacy employees at Emory University Hospital Midtown illegally diverted more than 1 million doses of controlled drugs in a scheme that lasted more than four years, according to a Georgia Board of Pharmacy consent order.
Details of the thefts came to light in the consent order with the Atlanta hospital, finalized last month.
The stolen drugs included Alprazolam, known generally as Xanax, which is used to treat anxiety disorders. Pain medications — hydrocodone and codeine products — were also diverted.
The two pharmacy technicians were fired.
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The Emory Midtown hospital “suffered significant financial losses due to the employees’ illegal thefts/diversion scheme,’’ the consent order said.
The employees were reported to the Emory Police Department, the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, said Vince Dollard, an Emory Healthcare spokesman, in a statement.
“Emory has cooperated fully in the investigation of these activities, and no patients were harmed,’’ Dollard said. “Emory has conducted a full review of its pharmacy processes and has reinforced and added procedures to prevent this scheme from recurring.”
The Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency has conducted a criminal investigation into the actions of the two individuals, Dollard said Tuesday.
“To the best of our knowledge that investigation is still pending, and we are unable to speak to details about its current status,” he said.
Officials of the state drug agency could not be reached for comment Tuesday. GHN also contacted the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration about the status of a possible prosecution of the two individuals.
In the consent order, the state Pharmacy Board placed Emory University Hospital Midtown's pharmacy license on probation for three years, and it has ordered the hospital to pay a fine of $200,000.
The diversion scheme began in October 2008 and lasted until July 2013, when the hospital "became aware of a suspicious single purchase by a pharmacy technician of schedule III, IV and V controlled substances,” the board order said.
The hospital immediately began an investigation that revealed that the pharmacy techs “illegally and without authorization had ordered and received controlled substances from [Emory Midtown’s] pharmacy wholesale supplier,’’ the document said.
“The scheme was perpetuated through coordinated illicit activity, including misappropriating credentials from a pharmacy buyer; exploiting use of an electronic function in the [hospital’s] system to conceal the unauthorized purchases, and bypassing the receiving/inventorying process.”
For more Georgia Health News, go to www.georgiahealthnews.com.