Diversion of drugs within health care facilities, a multiple-victim crime: patterns of diversion, scope, consequences, detection, and prevention

Mayo Clin Proc. 2012 Jul;87(7):674-82. doi: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2012.03.013.


Mayo Clinic has been involved in an ongoing effort to prevent the diversion of controlled substances from the workplace and to rapidly identify and respond when such diversion is detected. These efforts have found that diversion of controlled substances is not uncommon and can result in substantial risk not only to the individual who is diverting the drugs but also to patients, co-workers, and employers. We believe that all health care facilities should have systems in place to deter controlled substance diversion and to promptly identify diversion and intervene when it is occurring. Such systems are multifaceted and require close cooperation between multiple stakeholders including, but not limited to, departments of pharmacy, safety and security, anesthesiology, nursing, legal counsel, and human resources. Ideally, there should be a broad-based appreciation of the dangers that diversion creates not only for patients but also for all employees of health care facilities, because diversion can occur at any point along a long supply chain. All health care workers must be vigilant for signs of possible diversion and must be aware of how to engage a preexisting group with expertise in investigating possible diversions. In addition, clear policies and procedures should be in place for dealing with such investigations and for managing the many possible outcomes of a confirmed diversion. This article provides an overview of the multiple types of risk that result from drug diversion from health care facilities. Further, we describe a system developed at Mayo Clinic for evaluating episodes of potential drug diversion and for taking action once diversion is confirmed.

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesiology / standards
  • Drug and Narcotic Control*
  • Humans
  • Personnel, Hospital* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Prescription Drugs*
  • Risk
  • Substance Abuse Detection*
  • Substance-Related Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Substance-Related Disorders* / prevention & control
  • Theft / prevention & control*
  • United States


  • Prescription Drugs