ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Prescription drugs have been stolen or gone missing from five VA Medical Centers in Florida, including Orlando, according to a new report from federal officials.
Florida Congressman Vern Buchanan requested the information and said Monday in a statement, “As Florida confronts a deadly heroin and opioid epidemic, I’m disappointed to learn that some of our VA facilities were impacted by drug theft.”
VA officials say the majority of the drugs went missing in the mail, as they were being shipped to veterans. They say when that happens, it’s reported to the DEA.
Some of the lost prescriptions are powerful painkillers. Different amounts of Morphine, Oxycodone and Fentanyl are detailed in the report.
“The strongest thing that you mentioned was Fentanyl, which is a thousand times more potent than morphine,” said Dr. Timothy Huckaby of the Orlando Recovery Center. ”These are very sought after drugs. They have a quite a bit of street value.”
Huckaby says opiate addiction is getting worse in Central Florida.
“I can tell you that every year, the number of deaths from opiates continues to increase in Orlando,” he explained.
VA officials say drug diversion is taken very seriously. An Orlando VA Medical Center spokesperson sent FOX 35 this statement:
As the nation’s largest integrated health care system we employ a keen focus on medication safety. VHA implemented robust controlled substance security measures in the early 1980s and in many cases these measures far exceed the requirements of the Controlled Substances Act.
To reiterate VA’s response to Representative Buchannan, VA facilities perform actual counts of all schedules of controlled substances every 72 hours, and require all schedules of controlled substances to be stored under lock and key, with electronic access controls that require two-factor authentication.
The majority of documented controlled substance prescription losses occur in the mailing system during shipment to the Veteran after leaving the VA Medical Center or VA’s Consolidated Mail Outpatient Pharmacy. In addition to internal notification requirements outlined in the national VA handbook, those losses are also reported to the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency for further investigation. When a loss is suspected due to internal diversion, swift investigation and action is taken.