Can you imagine if Walgreen’s™ or CVS’™ pharmacists were helping themselves to the Hydromorphone and Oxycontin at franchise stores across the fruited plain what an uproar would ensue? The DEA would be in high gear in a week and be shutting them down and hauling the miscreants off in handcuffs for an extended stay at the Graybar Hotel. Well, folks, yes… everywhere but Veterans Affairs Medical Centers (VAMCs). There, this behaviour is condoned and VISN directors turn a blind eye. If it looks like the OIG is going to show up, they just “forget” to do an inventory that would reveal it.
Our new VA Secretary was reported to have commented that it was a ‘good thing these thefts have come to light as it illuminates a big problem’. I see that as white/hog wash because the VAOIG has been reporting the problem for seven years and Shulkin has been there …as Under Secretary… of the very department suffering the thefts…wait for it… for a year and a half. To say this has just come to light is a masterpiece of disingenuous observation. Hundreds of thousands of heavy duty pain medications like Dilaudid and Oxy are evaporating into thin air from the VA as fast as you can say Jack Robinson on top of the wealth of Vets dying from the inability to get a medical appointment and it’s a “good thing“? Is VA propounding a new ‘speshul kind of stupid’ as in “Well, we’re sure glad y’all told us they were dogging those doctor appointments down in Phoenix. Now that we know, we can fix it. We’re sure no other VAMCs are involved either. We’re not that stupid. We checked.”
My warped take on this is if you find yourself an addicted, unemployed Veteran, you should apply for VR&E training to become a pharmacist. You can promptly apply to the VA when you become accredited and kill two birds with one stone. You can self-medicate on the job and save postage having it mailed to your residence. The up side is you’ll be helping to reduce Veteran unemployment and proactively protecting the opioid supply by guarding it personally. My guess is the attrition rate of pharmacists and pills would drop off dramatically and the DEA would be willing to overlook a small amount of personal use written off as “spillage”. At the VAOIG, I’m sure they call that a quid pro quo. At Walgreen’s, they’d call it working at the corner of Happy and High.