HealthJune 19, 2021

The State of Drug Diversion 2021 Report

73% agree that most drug diversion goes undetected. A study on the state of drug diversion in the U.S. reveals using machine learning, advanced analytics, and automated systems/reporting can give hospitals a better chance to catch healthcare workers who divert before risky scenarios take place.

In 2017 and 2019, Porter Research, a provider of market research intelligence to healthcare companies, completed two studies of drug-diversion detection programs in healthcare facilities. The survey included over 400 healthcare executives who acknowledged that drug diversion was occurring but also believed that most diversion incidents remained undetected. About two-thirds of participants said they were either “not confident” or only “somewhat confident” that the drug diversion programs in their facilities were effective and efficient.

In early 2021, Porter Research reached out to a similar number of healthcare executives and other drug diversion specialists to gauge how drug diversion monitoring is evolving in 2021 amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and how healthcare organizations are striving to monitor the movement of controlled substances across supply chains and what technology is leverage for monitoring. The study takes an in-depth look at the changes and challenges that have emerged since late 2019.

Key findings on changes since 2019 drug diversion study

The COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges to monitoring and mitigating drug diversion.

  • Nearly half (47%) of respondents to a question about COVID-19 and diversion said staff turnover made it more challenging to track drug diversion
  • 38% said resources for investigations were reallocated due to budget concerns
  • 33% said they are more concerned about drug diversion given the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Healthcare organizations appear to have investigated fewer drug diversion cases in 2020-2021 than in 2018-2019, with 18% reporting that they investigated zero cases, compared with 8% in 2019.
  • Data suggest investigations were also less efficient: Nearly half (48%) of respondents said 10% or less of drug diversion investigations resulted in a confirmed diversion — down from 37% in 2019. Only 13% of respondents said that more than half of drug diversion investigations resulted in a confirmed diversion — down from 23% in 2019.

This data aligns with the finding that healthcare organizations had slightly fewer full-time employees dedicated to drug diversion programs and investigations, with 45% reporting at least one dedicated full-time employee, down from 58% in 2019.

Hospitals and health systems looking to reduce financial loss should seriously consider improving their drug diversion programs to better detect diversion of all drugs, including both controlled and non-controlled substances...We’re seeing more people with financial motivations to steal drugs — due to financial pressure experienced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the increasing costs of healthcare, or something else. Hospitals don’t have to accept the loss, they can take steps to detect and prevent theft of these high-value drugs.
Russ Nix, founder of Aegis RX

2021 drug diversion survey methodology

Two hundred healthcare employees participated in the survey. Survey participants included directors of pharmacy (43%), nursing executives (19%), compliance executives (28%) and drug diversion specialists (10%).

To access the survey findings, please fill out the below form.

Access the report

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