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Audit Finds Colorado DOC Loses Large Quantities of Drugs

by Matthew T. Clarke

A $436,484 shortage in the Colorado Department of Corrections's pharmacy budget in 2003 prompted an internal audit. The audit found that close to a half-million dollars worth of drugs have been lost by the prison system.
The DOC Pharmacy dispenses $8 million in drugs to nearly 20,000 prisoners annually. The audit found large errors in inventory records for many drugs, including expensive anti-psychotic medications. 20 of 22 drugs audited showed inventory discrepancies with some showing amounts above stock levels while others showed amounts below stock levels. The shortfalls for Zyprexa and Risperdal, two anti-psychotic drugs, totaled 35,000 doses valued at $195,419.

Prison officials believe that sloppy bookkeeping and an outdated inventory system are at fault.

We have no allegations of Schedule I or Schedule II narcotics, psychotropics, things like that are being diverted. There's no evidence of that," according to Mike Rulo, DOC Inspector General. But with no adequate means of record keeping, who knows.

Barry Pardus, DOC Director of Clinical Services, also ruled out fraud or theft stating that: the problem was nothing that sensational.

To the contrary, inappropriate blister packaging, combined with arcane regulations may be partially to blame for the problem. The DOC central pharmacy in Denver and satellite facility in Pueblo often send prescription medications in 30-dose or 60-dose blister packs, even if fewer doses were prescribed. Prison medical staff punch out and dispose of the extra doses or return them to the pharmacy. Either way results in the loss of the extra doses without any record having been made of their disposal.

The audit reported that drug returns to the Pueblo pharmacy in 2003 filled a large Dell computer box." However, drug returns from Sterling Correctional Facility alone in the four months following the audit filled 17 boxes. Most of the returned drugs may not be reissued due to state and federal regulations.

Outdated inventory methods also cause errors. Pharmacists inventory shelves manually, even though computer automated equipment has been available, according to the audit. The audit blamed a reluctance on the part of DOC Chief Pharmacist Doug Massingill to use the latest technology for the failure to adopt available automated inventory systems. Pueblo District Attorney Gus Sandstorm is investigating Massingill for failing to disclose a conflict of interest when he purchased $60,000 in ribovirus, a drug used to treat hepatitis C, from a pharmacy in Colorado Springs that employed him. However, Rulo says that the failure was probably merely an oversight as Massingill apparently did not intend to make any money on the deal. Whether he actually did or not was not disclosed.

To sum it up, prison officials think they simply lost the drugs. Alas, they don't have good enough records to prove it.

There's very little if any inventory control. There's no clear process in place that tracks a drug through our system, from the time we receive it in our front door to the time it gets dispensed in the prison," said Pardus.
Interestingly, this is not the first time the DOC asked for extra funds to supplement its pharmacy budget.

We've gone in and asked for supplemental appropriations for pharmacy for a number of years," admitted Pardus.

One has to wonder how long the missing drugs have been being not stolen.

Source: Rocky Mountain News.

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