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$183M Lost Due to Healthcare Workforce Diverting Drugs From Patient Care in 2019

The Protenus Drug Diversion Digest found that over half of diversion incidents took place in a hospital, medical center, or physician practice setting

Baltimore -- Protenus, a healthcare compliance analytics platform that uses artificial intelligence to find anomalous behavior in our nation’s health systems, announced new research that details the effects of clinical drug diversion on healthcare organizations, providers, and patients. With this information, healthcare organizations can understand what must be done to prevent diversion in their systems, while identifying and supporting members of their workforce with substance abuse disorders and protecting patients from the harm diversion can create. 

The research, published in the 2020 Drug Diversion Digest, is the only report of its kind to compile and analyze publicly available data on clinical drug diversion incidents involving healthcare workers. As found in the full report, the average fine to diverters in 2019 was $575,000.

Drug diversion is the transfer of a controlled substance from a lawful to an unlawful channel of distribution or use. Examples of this include a nurse stealing pills from a nursing home or a physician writing fraudulent prescriptions. In especially contemptible cases, clinicians or other staff have tampered with vials or syringes that contain controlled substances for their own use, potentially exposing patients to infectious disease or failing to adequately treat their pain, a situation frequently reported throughout 2019.

When comparing 2019 data to that of 2018, the number of publicly-reported incidents decreased by almost 36%. However, there is an alarming trend emerging with a 215% increase in total volume of doses lost, from 47 million doses in 2018 to 148 million doses in 2019. 

Pill mills contributed to the larger percent of practice-involved diversion incidents. Unfortunately, many of these incidents resulted in several overdoses and associated deaths. Physician practices may be especially vulnerable to risky behavior by staff because practices often do not have the resources to dedicate compliance staff or advanced technologies to monitor physicians, nurses, and other employees for anomalous behavior. This lower level of scrutiny makes them more vulnerable to drug diversion and other compliance issues, such as fraud. Current methods for detection are cumbersome and manual, leaving pharmacy professionals to look for the needle in the haystack.  

“This data is just the tip of the iceberg in understanding the full scope of drug diversion in healthcare. With current methods of drug diversion monitoring, pharmacy or compliance teams are only able to react to incidents that are brought to their attention, often after a devastating event has occurred,” said Nick Culbertson, Co-founder and CEO of Protenus. “The technology now exists with healthcare compliance analytics to enable health systems to detect early warning signs of possible diversion and prevent future incidents from occurring, reducing risk across the organization and protecting patients and workforce members from potential harm.“ 

To request the 2020 Drug Diversion Digest and receive future updates, please visit:

About Protenus

The Protenus healthcare compliance analytics platform uses artificial intelligence to audit every access to patient records for the nation’s leading health systems. Providing healthcare leaders full insight into how health data is being used, and alerting privacy, security and compliance teams to inappropriate activity. Protenus helps our partner hospitals make decisions about how to better protect their data, their patients, and their institutions. This year, Protenus was named the 2020 KLAS Category Leader in Patient Privacy Monitoring and one of Forbes’ Best Startup Employers in 2020. In 2019, Protenus was named one of The Best Places to Work in Healthcare by Modern Healthcare and one of the Best Places to Work in Baltimore by the Baltimore Business Journal and the Baltimore Sun. Learn more at and follow us on Twitter @Protenus.

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