Virtua Health, a non-profit organization that operates a network of hospitals, surgery centers, and physician practices making it South Jersey’s largest medical care provider, has agreed to pay $150,000 to resolve allegations that it violated the Controlled Substances Act.
According to U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig, documents filed in this case and the contentions of the United States contained in the settlement agreement Virtua Health Inc., which owned and operated Virtua Voorhees Hospital through a subsidiary in July 2016, reported to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that 400 tablets of oxycodone 30mgs had been lost or stolen from the inpatient pharmacy at the hospital.
An investigation conducted by diversion investigators from the DEA revealed that from Oct. 8, 2015, through Nov. 2, 2016, Virtua’s regional medical center failed to keep an accurate inventory of controlled substances, failed to keep the controlled substances in a secure location, and failed to properly supervise employees with access to controlled substances.
Since 1999, roughly 850,000 Americans have died due to a drug overdose with nearly 3 out of every 4 of those deaths involving an opioid such as oxycodone or heroin.
The street price for oxycodone, with the brand-name OxyContin, is $50 to $80 per pill, while generic tablets sell for $12 to $40 each.
Drug theft from hospital pharmacies is such a growing problem that the Department of Justice created a drug diversion task force to help combat the trafficking of prescription drugs.
Unscrupulous doctors, physician assistants, and pharmacists may be involved in the illegal distribution of controlled substances, including oxycodone, oxycontin, morphine, methadone, fentanyl, hydrocodone, and xanex, according to DEA administrator Anne Milgram, a former New Jersey Attorney General.
Honig credited diversion investigators of the DEA, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Susan A. Gibson in Newark, with the investigation leading to the agreement with Virtua.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kruti D. Dharia of the U.S. Attorney’s Opioid Abuse Prevention and Enforcement Unit in Newark.
The claims settled by this agreement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability by Virtua or any of its employees.
The agreement was signed by Paul Minnick, a senior vice president at Virtua Health who is the president of Virtua Marlton Hospital and Virtua Voorhees Hospital.
Virtua is affiliated with Penn Medicine for cancer and neurosciences, and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for pediatrics, five hospitals, seven emergency departments, eight urgent care centers, and more than 280 other other locations in southern New Jersey.