Massachusetts General Hospital will pay $2.3 million to settle multiple violations of the Controlled Substances Act, including its employees stealing 16,000 pills, the majority of which were the opioid oxycodone.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said "lax controls" allowed employees to steal controlled substances intended for medical use. The settlement was announced Monday by the office of U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, which called it "the largest settlement of its kind."
In 2013, Mass. General told the DEA two of its nurses had stolen 16,000 pills, mostly oxycodone, from the hospital's automated pill dispensers. The DEA later found that more than 20,000 pills were missing, along with hundreds of records, all of which put Mass. General in violation of the Controlled Substances Act.
Mass. General also told the DEA a pediatric nurse had injected himself with Dilaudid while at work, a doctor had been prescribing drugs to patients without having seen them or keeping records, nurses had been able to channel drugs to their personal use for years, and that employees had improperly secured drugs — including sometimes bringing them to lunch.
"Under the law, hospitals like MGH have a special responsibility to ensure that controlled substances are used for patient care and are not diverted for non-medical uses," Ortiz said in a statement. "Diversion of these drugs feeds addiction, contributes to potential illegal drug sales, and fuels the opioid epidemic that has had a devastating effect on the Commonwealth. We commend MGH for disclosing and addressing its diversion problems and for taking steps to ameliorate future diversion by hospital personnel.”
Mass. General will also enact a "comprehensive corrective action plan" to prevent similar thefts in the future, the U.S. Attorney's office said.