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Providers, industry associations should do more to address drug theft in assisted living, researcher

Assisted living and nursing home owners and administrators, as well as long-term care industry associations and others, should increase their efforts to address medication theft and protect residents’ rights to adequate and timely pain relief, recommend the authors of a newly published study.

The recommendation follows an analysis of Minnesota Department of Health investigation reports of substantiated “drug diversion” in those long-term care settings. The authors said that theft of controlled substances by assisted living and nursing home staff members is an overlooked form of elder mistreatment that needs more attention.

In an analysis of 107 state health department investigation reports involving “drug diversion,” the researchers found that an average of more than 30 tablets per resident were stolen, and 97.5% of them were controlled substances. The most common controlled substances stolen were opioids (94%), including oxycodone, hydrocodone, tramadol, hydromorphone and morphine.

The study, published Monday in the Journal of Applied Gerontology, was the first to look at medication theft in long-term care settings, the authors said. The study identified the types of medications stolen, the number of victims, theft duration, types of employees stealing medications, reasons given for thefts, and the role of surveillance cameras in confirmation allegations.


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