September 1, 2020

2020 Protenus Diversion Digest: Numbers Tell a Story

Kira Caban , Director of Communications, Protenus

The just-released 2020 Protenus Diversion Digest™ highlights the ongoing toll clinical drug diversion takes on patients, healthcare workers, and healthcare organizations. The report covers data from incidents reported in 2019. Healthcare workers who steal or misuse controlled substances—from physician practices, clinics, pharmacies, hospitals, long-term care facilities, and other organizations—cause direct harm to patients and put their employers at risk for financial penalties and sanctions.

In 2019, diversion incidents included a paramedic who replaced ketamine and fentanyl with saline. These drugs were intended for patients during medevac situations, putting them in jeopardy of not receiving adequate pain relief and sedation during transit. In another example, the Health Care Fraud Unit of the U.S. Department of Justice, along with other federal agencies and partners throughout the State of Texas, arrested 58 people, of whom 16 were doctors or other medical professionals, in fraud and opioid distribution schemes that led to losses of $66 million dollars and 6.2 million pills. 

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Hundreds of these cases play out across the United States each year. The 2020 Diversion Digest characterizes what Protenus captured in 208 diversion incidents reported in the media. News organizations reported on incidents at various stages, from arrests to indictments to prosecution to sentencing. 

When comparing 2019 data to that of 2018:

  • The number of incidents decreased by almost 36%, from 324 incidents to 208.
  • An emerging trend indicates an increase in the volume of doses lost year over year (YOY):  a 215% increase in total volume of doses lost, up to 148 million from 47 million. 
  • In 2019, healthcare organizations reportedly lost $183 million due to clinical drug diversion—a substantial decrease from 2018. However this decrease may reflect a lack of publicly available information.

Health systems can address diversion with strategies that include education on substance misuse and addiction; better handling and disposal of medications; changes to how certain medications are wasted; and improved investigations of suspicious cases, especially through the use of healthcare compliance analytics, such as the Protenus Drug Diversion Surveillance module.

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The 2020 Diversion Digest captures much more information, including: 

  • The role of employee most likely to divert controlled substances; 
  • Types of controlled substances most often diverted; 
  • Fines imposed on diverters; the cost to organizations; and,
  • States with the most diversion incidents. 

For more information, download the 2020 Diversion Digest.

Download the full report