“There is a critical need for education and increased awareness around drug diversion”

Hello Inge, Product Specialist at Pharmacolog. Tell us about your background and why you have chosen this field of occupation.

Hi! My background is in the Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Sales & Marketing field.

I choose this field because of the importance and value of consulting and educating healthcare professionals on products that ultimately benefit patient care. For the last 18 years I have consulted clinically with physicians, key opinion leaders and healthcare professionals throughout the United States and Europe. I am trained in 14 different therapeutic areas and worked/contracted with different companies, ranging from small upstarts to large global corporations. Other areas of expertise include brand development and launches, business development, instructional design and large-scale territory management. Academically, I hold a Bachelor of Science from Iowa State University with graduate coursework at Teacher’s College Columbia University, New York.  

Can you tell us a little more specifically about your role at Pharmacolog?

As Product Specialist I develop and deliver product training & demos for customers and internal staff. In addition, conducting installations of DrugLog®  and WasteLog® with customers both remotely and onsite as well as gathering feedback for marketing and product innovation is central to my role. Current priorities include helping facilitate US sales business development growth of WasteLog® and to support development with strategic partners. On a daily basis, I analyze customer data derived from DrugLog® and WasteLog® and support customers or clients through customer service and solutions.

The theft was uncovered when a young child in need of pain management received a benign-substitute substance rather than the intended medication.

What are your thoughts on the field of drug diversion?

Drug diversion has had a longstanding history globally. In the last decade however with the boom in opioid production and usage, there is an increased awareness of drug diversion particularly in the United States and most notably in hospitals and pharmaceutical facilities.  Diversions may involve internal staff, including nurses, pharmacy technicians, doctors or residents diverting controlled substances either for themselves or to sell on the street. 

Aside from harming patients, the damage of this is extensive. These diverted substances can increase the risk of impaired staff providing healthcare to patients, increase risk of infections due to use of tampered injectable drugs, deny essential pain medication to patients during therapy, and harm patients often resulting in impairment or death.  Medications often diverted include Fentanyl, Codeine, Meperidine, Morphine and Oxycodone.

The Joint Commission has issued an advisory… to prevent and detect the diversion of controlled substances.

What are the future challenges?

One of the biggest challenges with drug diversion is admitting “the reality of it” exists. Data estimates that 10% of healthcare providers divert opioids and other substances from patients and hospitals at some time during their career.[1] Yet, the theft of controlled substances is inevitably one of the most unspoken risks within hospitals and pharmacy organizations.  Unfortunately, there is a lack of awareness or denial that it can happen, or it is “the white elephant in the room”  that no one knows how or wants to address. Often, it takes severe harm to a patient or staff member for institutions to realize that there is a problem and address it. For example, most recently here in Sweden it was reported that a hospital staff member was stealing morphine from a hospital pharmacy. The theft was uncovered when a young child in need of pain management received a benign-substitute substance rather than the intended medication.

There is a critical need for education, increased awareness and transparency around drug diversion. Although there is currently a strong focus in the United States, diversion of controlled substances occurs globally. In the US there are increasingly strong, preventative regulatory measures being implemented. For example, The Joint Commission (TJC) has issued an advisory to health organizations to develop and maintain a comprehensive approach to prevent and detect the diversion of controlled substances.[2]  

This comprehensive approach involves core administrative elements including legal and regulatory reporting on a state and federal level. In addition, systemic and provider-level controls are essential components of a comprehensive drug diversion strategy. 

Within this comprehensive approach, the equipment that I work with daily – WasteLog® – can play an effective, central and integral role in protecting healthcare facilities from internal drug theft. WasteLog® is a laboratory instrument used for assisting the safeguarding and disposal of controlled substances after medical/surgical treatment. The pharmaceutical waste is analyzed and verified prior to disposal by measuring a small sample of the remaining substance using UV vis spectroscopy. Introducing WasteLog® into the controlled substance waste workflow process reduces the risk for drug diversion by ensuring both the correct substance and concentration in the remaining solution. It is a simple, reliable solution to detect drug theft and strengthen drug diversion prevention programs. 

  2. The Joint Commission. Quick Safety 48: Drug diversion and impaired health care workers, April 15, 2019.

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