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MN hospitals teaming up against drug theft

Star Tribune/Associated Press, June 1, 2011

While drug thefts have long been an issue in hospitals and nursing homes, health officials are taking new steps to address the problem. The Minnesota Hospital Association and state Health Department are organizing a coalition of hospitals and licensing boards to identify and close loopholes in drug-handling protocols that make it easier to steal. "People are starting to realize that this is a serious and ongoing problem," said Keith Berge, who chairs the Mayo Clinic's medication diversion prevention committee. "They're starting to recognize what they've been seeing. I think we've been seeing this all along and not recognizing it for what it is." In perhaps the most dramatic recent case, a nurse anesthetist in Minneapolis was accused of taking most of the painkiller intended for a patient undergoing kidney-stone surgery in November. A criminal complaint said the nurse told the patient to "man up" as he endured the worst pain. Opioid pain relievers such as fentanyl or oxycodone are the most commonly stolen prescription drugs, according to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.