Northeast Hospital Corporation, which operates facilities across Massachusetts, has agreed to pay $1.9 million in civil penalties to resolve allegations that it failed to keep accurate records of controlled substances.
The case emerged when Northeast discovered in 2018 that an employee had stolen more than 17,000 units of controlled substances.
“The settlement resolves allegations that Northeast’s recordkeeping was not in compliance with the CSA [Controlled Substances Act] and its regulations,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts said in a press release on Monday.
Northeast Hospital Corporation, part of Beth Israel Lahey Health, does business as Beverly Hospital in Beverly, MA, Lahey Outpatient Center Danvers in Danvers, MA, BayRidge Hospital in Lynn, MA, and Addison Gilbert Hospital in Gloucester, MA. Each location is separately registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to handle controlled substances.
According to the U.S. attorney’s office, the DEA began investigating Northeast after the hospital corporation reported in March 2018 that an employee had stolen 17,846 dosage units of controlled substances. The substances included fentanyl, Percocet, oxycodone, dextroamphetamine and MS Contin, a pain medication. The theft occurred over a period of more than a year.
Northeast was in the process of improving its pharmacy operations and controlled substances programs when it discovered the employee had stolen the drugs, according to the news release.
The DEA found that Northeast did not have an adequate record of each hospital’s inventory, which violates the CSA. Northeast also failed to report when controlled substances, including opioids, were transferred between hospitals, according to the press release.
“The CSA requires accurate inventorying and tracking of each controlled substance in circulation, from the manufacturer to the ultimate user,” the U.S. attorney’s office said.
For example, Northeast ordered controlled substances under Beverly Hospital’s DEA registration but then transferred those drugs to other Northeast locations without notifying the DEA.
“The recordkeeping requirements are intended, in part, to prevent misuse of controlled substances and avoid overdoses or other harms,” the U.S. attorney’s office said.
Northeast said it has implemented safeguards to prevent this from happening again.
“We are committed to ensuring the strongest possible safeguards for the handling of controlled substances and have robust policies and procedures in place, including anti-diversion software and strong audit and monitoring practices,” a spokesperson for Northeast Hospital Corporation said in an emailed statement.
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