The Pharmacy Chick

Flying the coup in retail

A theft of trust, a loss of innocence.

Filed under: Uncategorized — pharmacychick at 7:50 pm on Sunday, July 12, 2009

I don’t know where I am going with this story, but its one I wanted to write for a while. 

Several years ago Mark was a technician of mine on a part time basis.  He worked for me on Fridays and Sundays and he worked at another store on mondays and thursdays. (this matters) The rest of the week he floated around. He was every pharmacists version of a perfect technician:  He was fast and accurate, he was easy to get along with and he never missed a shift.  What else could you ask for?

Because we worked together on a lot of Sundays, we had the chance to talk quite often. We couldn’t have been more different had it been scripted.  My upbringing was Leave it to Beaver and his was like a bad episode of The Simpsons.  He told me of his alcoholic mother, his absent father and his drug addict ( and incarcerated) brother.  He moved out of his home when he was 15, and had been on his own ever since. He rented a bedroom from a friend of his. He said he didn’t need much space since he was never home anyway.

I loved the summer and he loved the winter.  In fact, he would work as much as he could in the summer so he could fund his passion: snowboarding and skiing.  For me, snow is just something to be shoveled and wished away.  He also loved all things Asian, also not my style.  He wanted to travel to or live in Thailand. In fact, one of our terminals at the store still has a desktop picture that mysteriously shows up now and then of some bay in Thailand.  I cannot get rid of it, and I still do not know how he put it there since he didn’t have administrative rights on that terminal.

He finally got to go to Thailand and once back, he talked about the place like it was heaven on earth. 

He was smart…and a bit of a smart ass…and one day it all started to catch up with him.

One day we got a call from the other store Mark worked in. She asked to speak with Mark.  I didn’t get to hear all of the conversation, only bits and pieces: “No, I didn’t see that in the order” “I must have missed the invoice” “Sorry about that,I’ll be more careful”.  I asked him specifically what happened. He told me that the pharmacist had an invoice for a drug that she didn’t order.   He had checked everything in but didn’t see that they were shorted that item because it was on a separate invoice.

The pharmacist didn’t let that ball drop however.  Since the invoice was for a controlled substance in a package size they didn’t normally carry, she decided to investigate.  What she found out started an avalanche.  Mark had ordered the product over the phone, the previous day.  Only he wasn’t working there the day he ordered it. He was working someplace else. The wholesaler records all the orders and includes the date, time and who placed the order.  Because Mark had ordered a 500ct bottle, she was alerted to this discrepancy. They never carried it in a 500ct size.

Mark was a thief: a highly clever one, but still a thief. He had written down the account numbers of several stores. Then, on the day before he was scheduled to work at a store, he would call the wholesaler and order bottles of diazepam and Hydrocod/APAP.  Then, on the next day, he would ticket the order, file or trash the invoice and  none would be the wiser.  He also knew who worked when, so that when he placed his phone orders, it was on a day that a different pharmacist was working from the day before.  He knew that If Greg worked thursday then Marcia worked friday and she wouldn’t neccessarily know what Greg used the day before. 

I was sickened by the accusations.  I had liked Mark and now I had to keep this quiet investigaion  under my hat until they found more evidence.  It didnt’ take long. They had every store he commonly worked in print usage records and compare it to purchases.  My store alone had about a 4000 tab discrepancy of Hydrocod/APAP-5/500 alone over that 2 year period.  I was also missing about 2000 Diazepam 5mg.

Armed with all that information, the company sent security out to the store to interveiw Mark.  He politely went up to the office with them.  About a half hour later he sauntered back (alone), grabbed his coat, and said he had to go with them.  Five minutes later, one member of security came back and asked “Where’s Mark?”  “With you?” we answered.  Apparently the men of Security aren’t brain trusts.  They let Mark go and get his coat unescorted and he bolted. 

I never saw him again.  

Reports were filed, procedures were altered, and eventually the fallout settled on the incident.  Somebody asked me why I didn’t notice I was missing narcotics?  I almost laughed in their face. “We go thru something like 2000+ Hydrocod/Apap tabs a WEEK around here.  2000×52 weeks is 104,000 tabs a year.   Thats 208 bottles a year, or 416 bottles over a 2 year span. 4000 tabs is a lot of tabs, but it represented only 1.9%  of what we actually dispensed over that 2 year span.  It averaged 166 tabs per month.

I liked him, but he violated our trust.  Somebody said he moved to Thailand,  somebody else thought they saw him on the east side of town. I don’t care. 

Its been years.  Techs have come and gone.  I’d prefer to trust every one of them, but I cannot and don’t want to watch them day and night.  Even I have to take a bathroom break now and then. I have learned that if a person wants to steal, they will.  For every measure intended to stop theft, there will be another way around it.   I once said, “if you want to stop stealing then we have to practice naked and everything in the pharmacy has to be transparent.”

Know what? I am sure somebody would find a way.


Comment by Mike

July 12, 2009 @ 8:07 pm

It’s always the person you least expect. I think we all have a similar story.

Comment by Katrina

July 12, 2009 @ 9:19 pm

that’s terrible.

Comment by chris

July 13, 2009 @ 5:29 am

It’s a shame when things like that happen, I was recently told in a managers meeting that staff theft makes up over 70% of the thefts from stores in the company, that doesnt suprise me. I dont think anyone can hand on heart say they have never taken anything from work, even a pack of post-its or a biro. But theft like what you describe is why we have such a hard time letting go of important jobs, I am expected to delegate contolled drug balance checking to one of my techs. I trust them to do it, but who knows, one of them has just had her husband become redundant, so there is a clear motive.

Comment by Pharmassisting

July 13, 2009 @ 7:47 am

It is a shame that this person has taken this route in life. He has made an everlasting effect on you to where you will be skeptical of everyone you work with.

Comment by Jade

July 14, 2009 @ 3:37 pm

My mother from the old French school used to say the enabler is a collaborator is as guilty as the actual perpetrator, and there’s an old Russian saying that the crime awaits an opportunity; realize that criminal actions could occur by those not diligent to ensure accountability.

Maybe because there are a lot of very clever people that enter the pharmacy profession, the deviousness cannot be stopped by ensuring every mouse hole is plugged.

Adherence to complete, proper record-keeping and documentation is important in pharmacy, plus random audits. In the hospital, use of automated dispensing cabinets provides access to all kinds of record storage analysis and trending programs.

I’m sure there is some way to assess risks in a system to elements from insider as well as outsider. The tech might have been considered both an insider and ‘outsider’ due to involvement in store functions at another facility.

Still, it has to be a real blow to be duped by a co-worker in which time, energy, consideration, and emotion has been invested, as if your persona was treated as a non-human.
He was particularily clever and there wasn’t much we could have done before his own greedy mistake. As a general rule, the controls are tagged and left next to the invoice for the pharmacist to sign THEN they are put away. I cannot account for what the other store’s procedure is. He ordered stuff over the phone offsite the day before his shift. When the items came in, he would tag them, then pilfer them after the invoice was signed. WE carried that item in 500ct bottles and after I saw the items, signed the invoice, THEN he would steal the drugs. HIS mistake was assuming the other store carried the same size, which they didn’t. SHE noticed a singular invoice with 1 item on it that was not a product they normally carried. When she couldn’t find the drug on the shelf, she became suspicious. I will tell you this. No matter how many procedures you put into place, how many rules you have and how many safeguards you apply, if somebody wants to steal, they will find a way. You cannot practice pharmacy buck naked.

Comment by Dr. Grumpy

July 19, 2009 @ 9:43 am

I get blindsided sometimes. Patients I thought were honest turn out to be deceptive junkies. I toss them immediately. Somehow they hurt more than the ones who are blatant junkies.

We go into healthcare to help others. It’s never fun when they take advantage of our kindness. But it will always happen.

Comment by Becky theTechie

July 30, 2009 @ 12:37 pm

You’re not alone in this disappointment. A few months ago, a new tech was hired in that had history with another chain. She knew the robot system we’d just gotten, she could D. E. and ring like a champ, she knew patients by face and name within 6 weeks, it was great.

And then one day I looked at the fast mover shelf and noticed we’d gone from three thousand count bottles of Hydrocodone/APAP 7.5/750 to none in the space of a couple of hours, and said something.

She was fired 3 weeks later. Closest thing to a friend I had in the job at that time, and she’d been lifting C-IVs the same way Mark had. The kicker came when I punched her name into Google, expecting to find a recent newspaper article (so we could figure out vacation days if we were subpoenaed) and found an article about *her first* arrest for theft from a pharmacy from over 10 years before. I was livid, but what can you do but keep plugging?

Comment by Joe, SPTC

August 23, 2009 @ 1:14 am

All theft is trackable,
don’t you guys do weekly counts?
I do 2000 rx a month with 2 pharmacist and 2 techs. Where in the hell am I gonna find time to do a weekly count of every single controlled sub I have…how about you coming over and doing it? I cant track every single bottle. Glad you do a better job of it.

Our overnight turns the place over in about a month.

Also, invoices not accounted for?

He stole them AFTER the invoices were checked in Joe

What kinda business are u running! I run a busy pharmacy…thanks for your kind words….you must be extraordinary.

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