How Many Painkillers Have Been Stolen From Colorado Hospitals?

July 2009

The growing list of medical workers who have made the news in recent weeks---and some incidents that haven't, until now--raise questions about the quality of care provided to patients at hospitals. It's the fallout resulting from Kristen Diane Parker, the surgical technician facing decades in prison for unleashing a scary outbreak of hepatitis C after stealing syringes with painkillers and replacing them with dirty ones full of saline solution. The Denver Post reports that such thefts are, unfortunately, not rare. In the past three-and-a-half years at 22 Colorado hospitals, medical workers have been caught stealing drugs 100 times. In May 2008, Denver Health Medical Center fired a worker for allegedly stealing more than 75 tablets of Percocet and other drugs, including five vials of Fentanyl--the same drug Parker is accused of stealing. Boulder Community Hospital recently experienced a narcotics theft, as well, which threatened nearly 300 patients. Now the hospital says it has safeguarded the drug-dispensing system that a nurse exploited for his drug habit, writes the Daily Camera. Painkillers like Vicodin and Percocet are the most popular and abused drugs in the U.S., and an advisory panel to the Federal Drug Administration recently voted to ban them (via The Associated Press). Meanwhile, New York magazine ponders life without Vicodin, offering a timeline of its history.