With national opioid addiction rates at an all-time high, civilians, lawmakers, and loved ones of victims are all calling for stricter controls on the extremely addictive medications. The ability to obtain opioids such as fentanyl, morphine, oxycodone, and other drugs is surprisingly easy and many who find themselves hooked on the drugs had their addiction begin with a doctor-prescribed prescription for some sort of pain management. If drug companies are being asked to reevaluate marketing tactics and distribution methods of opioids, then prescribers themselves should also be forced to closely examine how frequently and to whom they are prescribing pain killers. Doctors in hospitals, clinics, private practices, and nursing homes, as well as dentists, oral surgeons and anyone else with prescribing ability should all be held to the same standard. The pharmacies that dispense these drugs, whether free-standing (independent stores or local, regional, or national chains) or in-house (within hospitals), need to be tracking prescriptions vigilantly, but also monitoring how they are dispensed to the actual patient and how they are stored within the facility.
Last April, Levin & Perconti founding partner Steven Levin was interviewed by ABC 7 Chicago about an incident that sounds like a plot from a tv mystery. An anonymous person mailed a box of fentanyl patches to ABC 7 I-Team investigative reporter Chuck Goudie with a note that read “these lay around like candy.” The package was stamped Oak Park, Illinois, but the box of fentanyl patches was prescribed to a patient at Westchester Health & Rehabilitation that died two weeks after the prescription fill date. The pharmacy that supplies the nursing home with its prescription drugs fills ‘drug carts’ that are kept on site at Westchester Health & Rehab, and asks that the nursing home use the cart to store medications and lock them up when not in use.
While the sender of the package is unknown, it is clear that they wanted to let someone with a voice know that the ease of getting their hands on opioids at the nursing home was quite easy. Nursing homes with lax standards for keeping track of opioid inventory may just be ideal grounds for a thief to swindle these coveted prescription painkillers. In fact, during his interview, Steve Levin told ABC 7 that properly securing prescription drugs in nursing homes has been a long-standing problem, despite strict federal and state laws that dictate how they are prescribed, dispensed, and stored.