Stepping up to a proactive drug diversion prevention strategy

Fighting drug diversion takes a holistic approach aided by powerful technology.

In a landmark August 2022 lawsuit, a federal judge in Cleveland, Ohio, ordered CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart to pay $650 million for their role in flooding the community with opioids, saying they “squandered the opportunity to present a meaningful plan to abate the nuisance.” The trial featured a supply chain blame game, with fingers pointed at manufacturers, doctors, and, ultimately, the pharmacies on the frontline, for the way they dispensed highly addictive pain medications.

The case underscores the equally significant responsibility of health delivery organizations in safely and securely administering pain medications to combat the growing opioid crisis. And it highlights the need for better, more proactive solutions to recognize and prevent drug diversion, the act of illegally obtaining or using prescription drugs intended for patients.

A troubling problem

There’s no end in sight to the devastating abuse of prescription drugs, and opioids in particular. Contributing to the problem is drug diversion, which takes place 37,000 times per year, according to the Porter Research 2021 study. In addition to occurring at an alarming number of health delivery organizations, it’s happening at many levels of clinical and other staffing areas.

The widespread impact of drug diversion is similarly alarming. That includes a breach of security, privacy, and protocols. And of course, it directly affects patient care, safety, and trust. Plus, the negative effects extend to business operations, including financial impacts, regulatory and compliance issues, and the compromising of an organization’s reputation.

A proactive, holistic solution

Given the devastating effects of drug diversion, it’s vital that health delivery organizations move forward with a comprehensive, proactive drug diversion detection and prevention strategy. The strategy needs to be holistic, leveraging a multifaceted game plan that engages employees throughout the organization. Best practices of a holistic approach typically feature components including:

  • Ensuring adequate diversion management and investigation staffing resources
  • Providing learning opportunities focused on recognizing substance use disorders
  • Offering diverters resources including rehabilitation options
  • Leveraging diversion prevention automation tools

Powerful technology tools

The breadth and depth of this growing problem have led health delivery organizations to the realization that traditional, manually driven approaches are no longer adequate. Manual detection has proven to be ineffective and inefficient – a particularly crucial shortfall is the lack of expediency needed to minimize damage and support remediation.

In response to growing risks presented by drug diversion and the inadequacy of traditional approaches, more and more health delivery organizations are harnessing the power of drug diversion monitoring and detection technology. Featuring machine learning and artificial intelligence, these platforms are helping organizations manage the full lifecycle of a drug diversion program.

How exactly are they making a difference? The solutions are increasing visibility to help uncover suspicious trends and behavior patterns typical of diversion activity. This functionality enables the identification of discrepancies in high-risk scenarios, anomalous behaviors, and system access issues. The solutions also integrate with other apps and systems, creating enhanced visibility across the security landscape.

There’s no doubt that it’s a significant challenge. But meaningful strides can be made in fighting drug diversion with the help of a proactive, holistic approach that leans heavily on the power of advanced technology.

To learn more, see the Imprivata article in Forbes magazine, “Combatting the opioid crisis with artificial intelligence.”