On November 1, 2021, in Kansas City, Kansas, Alec Ramirez, a 30-year-old nurse was indicted by a federal grand jury on two counts of tampering with a consumer product. He was also indicted on one count of possession of fentanyl and hydromorphone, both by deception and subterfuge.
In March 2021, Ramirez was accused of taking vials of fentanyl and hydromorphone from an automated dispensing cabinet at the Menorah Medical Center in Overland Park. He would then replace the contents with an alternate liquid and put them back in the cabinet.
This case is being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Food and Drug Administration – Office of Criminal Investigations. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Faiza Alhambra and Trent Krug.
Fentanyl and Hydromorphone are controlled substances and are considered high risk for addiction and dependence.
Some signs to watch for if a nurse is stealing drugs
One sign to look for is if a nurse is always requesting to work overtime. This could mean there is some unknown behavior involving prescription drug theft. Other signs a nurse may be stealing drugs from medical supplies might include coming into work on a day off schedule, discovering vials that are missing, errors in charts and patient records, paying extra attention to patients on opioids, or volunteering to count narcotics.
What are the consequences if you're caught?
The consequences are negative. According to the American Nurses Association, it estimates that Substance abuse among nurses has far-reaching negative consequences. The American Nurses Association estimates:
[T]hat 6-8 % of nurses use alcohol or drugs to an extent that impairs their professional performance. Nurses with an untreated addiction can jeopardize patient safety because of impaired judgment, slower reaction time, patient neglect, and increased mistakes and errors.2 Cases of drug diversion, where drugs prescribed to a patient are stolen by a healthcare worker for their own personal use, pose additional risks to patients. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 30,000 people may have been exposed to hepatitis C over a 14-year period by infected nurses and other hospital employees using stolen narcotics that were intended for patients.