For three years, hundreds of life-saving cancer drugs disappeared from the shelves of the University of Miami’s (UM) Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. A pharmacy technician at the center was arrested in connection to the thefts in May of 2011, and is accused of stealing more than $14 million in cancer drugs, according to the Miami Herald. The pharmacy tech faces four counts of grand theft, two counts of trafficking in contraband prescription drugs and one count of dealing in stolen property.
Pharmacy had No System in Place to Keep Track of Supplies.
According to the Miami Herald, UM’s chief financial officer and a board member admitted that there were no controls at the cancer pharmacy to keep track of supplies. The pharmacy technician was apparently able to walk to refrigerators in the pharmacy and slip packages of Neulasta, a drug used by cancer patients, into his lab coat. Each box of Neulasta runs about $2,600 per dose. It’s obviously worth more than its weight in gold.
The fact that the pharmacy was missing hundred of syringes of drugs did not even get noticed until May 2011 when a pharmacy buyer at UM noticed something was off when she reviewed a new computer program that tracked drugs. The system showed hundreds of syringes full of Neulasta were missing from inventory. Since the new software was not reliable, the pharmacy buyer decided to hand-count the syringes. This was the first time anyone at the pharmacy noticed that drugs were missing.
Pharmacy Technician Used Lab Coat to Smuggle Drugs Out of the Pharmacy.
On June 1, 2011, hidden video surveillance cameras were installed in the pharmacy to view the refrigerators. On two separate occasions the cameras allegedly caught the pharmacy technician pocketing several boxes of Neulasta.
The second time the pharmacy technician was allegedly captured on video, he was confronted and forced to hand over his lab coat containing the cancer drugs. He immediately confessed to selling the drugs and allowed investigators to search his home. There investigators found 163 doses of Neulasta and other cancer-fighting drugs. All together the drugs found had a value of more than $700,000, according to the Miami Herald.
It is currently unknown whether he will ever get his lab coat back. He may have to exchange it for a striped one or an orange jump suit.
Security and Controls Now Up To Par.
As soon as the theft was confirmed, security and inventory controls of pharmaceuticals at Sylvester were reviewed and strengthened, according to the Miami Herald. A follow up audit found that the pharmacy’s inventory controls are now sufficient.
The pharmacy is seeking reimbursement for losses from the employee and the pharmacy’s insurance.
Recent Article on Employee Embezzlement.
George F. Indest, another health attorney with our firm, recently wrote several articles on prevention of employee embezzlement. Although the articles are written for smaller health care providers than universities, many of the general principles contained in these would apply to larger employers, as well.
Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.
The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, administrative hearings, inspections and audits. The firm’s attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.
To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
What do you think of this story? What do you think of the fact that it took the university so long to find out the inventory was missing? Have you heard of people stealing drugs from pharmacies before? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.
Dorschner, John. “How Did $14 Million in Drugs Vanish from a UM Pharmacy?” Miami Herald. (August 6, 2012). From: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/08/06/2936916/how-did-14-million-in-drugs-vanish.html
Creamer, Alyssa. “University of Miami Employee, Manuel Pacheco, Allegedly Looted Pharmacy For Over $14 Million In Cancer Drugs.” Huffington Post. (August 9, 2012). From: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/09/um-employee-steals-14-million-cancer-drugs_n_1760155.html?view=print&comm_ref=false
About the Author: Michael L. Smith, J.D., R.R.T., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
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