More than 38,000 prescription pills missing from Massachusetts’ pharmacies

FILE - This Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017 file photo shows an arrangement of pills of the opioid oxycodone-acetaminophen, also known as Percocet, in New York. Cities and counties of all sizes have sued companies that make and distribute prescription opioids. Among the plaintiffs so far: Philadelphia; the state of Ohio; Princeton, West Virginia; the Cherokee Nation; and a consortium of counties across Wisconsin. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison)

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - More than 770 oxycodone pills were stolen from the Walgreens on Sumner Avenue in Springfield, and 100 oxycodone tablets were reportedly "lost in transit" at the Walgreens on West Street in Ware.

Those are just two examples of the nearly 38,500 prescription pills that vanished from Massachusetts pharmacies in 2017.

Whenever prescription pills are lost or stolen, pharmacists are required to fill out a form called a "DEA 106." The 22News I-Team went through hundreds of these forms from 2017. We discovered the pills most reported lost or stolen were Tramadol, Oxycodone, and Lorazepam, medications that are also considered to be highly addictive.

Nearly 6,000 pills were reported lost or stolen from pharmacies in western Massachusetts last year, including nearly 2,000 oxycodone pills.

A majority of the reports blamed the missing pills on manufacturer or dispensing errors, but others were reportedly "lost in transit," "thrown in the trash," or listed as "other."

There were 16 reports of employee theft of pills statewide, including at the Rite Aid on East Silver Street in Westfield, where someone who worked there stole more than 70 sedatives.

Springfield pharmacist Hai Huynh told the I-Team while employee abuse is always a possibility, it's rare. "Any health industry you go to where there's access to medication, there's a potential for abuse."

Huynh also said if an employee is stealing pills, it shouldn't take long before someone else at the pharmacy notices. "Missing medication from an employee is just like any abuse factor. There's a starting point, and it escalates up, and people overdo it. You're going to catch it, the patterns will be there."

Huynh said pharmacists are required to take inventory on highly addictive pills every 10 days. If a number is off, they have to fill out a form immediately and send it to the state, which can then open an investigation.

Western Massachusetts Pharmacies

Walgreens - 501 Sumner Avenue, Springfield
Type of theft/loss - Armed Robbery
Purchase value to Registrant of controlled substances taken - $2,389.46
List of Controlled Substances Lost:
Oxycodone HCL TAB 10 MG - 500 Each
Oxycodone HCL TAB 15 MG - 272 Each
Oxycodone HCL TAB ER 12HR DETER 10 MG - 52 Each
Oxycodone HCL TAB ER 12HR DETER 20 MG - 180 Each

 

Walgreens - 171 West Street, Ware
Type of theft/loss - Lost in Transit
Purchase value to Registrant of controlled substances taken - $62.50
List of Controlled Substances Lost:
Oxycodone HCL TAB 10 MG - 100 Each

 

Baystate Pharmacy - 50 Wason Avenue, Springfield
Type of theft/loss - Other, known, dispensing error
Purchase value to Registrant of controlled substances taken - $6.00
List of Controlled Substances Lost:
Oxycodone-Acetaminophen 5-325 MG TAB - 18 Each

 

Walgreens - 5 Pierce Street, Greenfield
Type of theft/loss - Other
Purchase value to Registrant of controlled substances taken - $1,121.88
List of Controlled Substances Lost:
Lorazepam TAB 1 MG - 1303 Each

 

Costco Pharmacy - 116 Daggett Drive, West Springfield
Type of theft/loss - Other, miscount
Purchase value to Registrant of controlled substances taken - $16.74
List of Controlled Substances Lost:
Zoldipem Tartrate - 10 MG TAB - 94 Each
Zoldipem Tartrate - 10 MG TAB - 59 Each

 

Ride Aid - 7 East Silver Street, Westfield
Type of Theft/loss - Employee Pilferage
Purchase value to Registrant of controlled substances taken - $55.19
List of Controlled Substances Lost:
Alprazolam - .25 MG TABS - 4 each
Alprazolam - 1.0 MG TABS - 10 each
Alprazolam - 2.0 MG TABS - 4 each
Colnazepam - 0.5 MG TABS - 19 each
Colnazepam - 1.0 MG TABS - 41 each

 

CVS Pharmacy - 104 West Street, Ware
Type of theft/loss - Other, Suspect dispensing error
Purchase value to Registrant of controlled substances taken - $21.00
List of Controlled Substances Lost:
Fentanyl Patch 12 MCG/HR Patch - 1 patch

 

Williamsburg Pharmacy - 49 Main Street, Williamsburg
Type of theft/loss - Night break-in
Purchase value to Registrant of controlled substances taken - $9,587
List of Controlled Substances Lost:
Phenobarbital - 30 MG TABLET - 240 Each
Lorazepam - 1 MG TABLET - 317 Each
Lorazepam - 2 MG TABLET - 914 Each
Oxycodone HCL TAB ER 40 MG TABLET- 156 Each
Oxycodone HCL TAB ER 10 MG TABLET- 14 Each
Oxycodone HCL TAB ER 20 MG TABLET- 8 Each
Oxycodone HCL TAB ER 30 MG TABLET- 681 Each
Oxycontin 10 MG TABLET - 338 Each
Oxycontin 15 MG TABLET - 122 Each
Oxycontin 20 MG TABLET - 171 Each
Oxycontin 30 MG TABLET - 196 Each
Oxycontin 40 MG TABLET - 147 Each
Oxycontin 60 MG TABLET - 250 Each

 

Walgreens - 70 Main Street, Florence
Type of theft/loss - Other
Purchase value to Registrant of controlled substances taken - $74.70
List of Controlled Substances Lost:
Oxycodone w/ Acetaminophen TABLET - 72 Each

 

Rite Aid - 577 Meadow Street, Chicopee
Type of theft/loss - Other, manufacturing shortage
Purchase value to Registrant of controlled substances taken - $83.01
List of Controlled Substances Lost:
Oxycodone HCL ER 15 MG TABLET - 14 Each

Responses from Pharmacies

RITE AID PHARMACY:
"Rite Aid takes all matters of drug loss very seriously. We do regular internal audits of the prescription inventory in our stores. Should we discover any loss, we immediately investigate and any suspected drug loss is reported to the state Board of Pharmacy and the DEA as required by law. If we are contacted by authorities about such a matter, in addition to cooperating completely with their investigation, we also conduct our own review of the situation and take appropriate steps pending the outcome of our investigation."
- Ashley Flowes, Sr. Manager Public Relations

CVS PHARMACY:
Last April, our Ware pharmacy discovered that a fentanyl patch was unaccounted for through our inventory control process. Following a thorough internal investigation, we determined that internal theft was not the cause, but was likely the result of an extra patch being inadvertently dispensed for a recently-filled valid prescription for fentanyl patches. We subsequently filed a "loss of controlled substances" report to regulators regarding the patch.
-Mike DeAngelis, Senior Director, Corporate Communications

Number of investigations opened into drug violation complaints at pharmacies

The Massachusetts Board of Registration in Pharmacy opened 85 investigations (50 complaints and 35 staff assignments) related to "Drug Violations" in pharmacies in 2017.
In 2016, the Board opened 79 investigations (15 complaints and 64 staff assignments) related to "Drug Violations."
In 2015, the Board opened 49 investigations, (9 complaints and 40 staff assignments."

"One possible explanation for the increase in investigations since 2015, is the Board created a heightened awareness about drug losses. In March 2016, the Board issued Board Policy 16-02, which sets forth requirements and procedures fore reporting and investigating theft or loss of controlled substances. Also, the board has increased outreach to all licenses by conducting more frequent inspections and increasing accessibility of staff by presenting at Continuing Education seminars. "

-Helen Rush-Lloyd, Records Access Officer for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

 

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