If you are a pharmacist in this state, you register annually with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. The DHEC performs regular inspections of pharmacies for potential illegal activities, such as the diversion of controlled substances.
Did a recent inspection show discrepancies in your accounting procedures, and you are facing a possible drug-diversion violation? What happens now?
Routine and random inspections
DHEC inspections of registered pharmacies, practitioners and hospitals are routine for the most part, although there are some random audits. The Department’s Bureau of Drug Control is responsible for enforcement of the South Carolina Controlled Substances Act. The goal is to see that registrants maintain a closed system of prescription drug distribution, and to this end, the DHEC performs up to 850 site inspections each year.
Monitoring controlled substances
The state has a prescription monitoring program, the South Carolina Reporting & Identification Prescription Tracking System, or SCRIPTS. Information from the monitoring program goes into a secure database that shows the controlled substances that a pharmacy or health provider dispenses. Included in the database are OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet, Xanax, Klonopin and Valium. The database shows the name of the patient, how much of a certain prescription the patient takes and for how long, plus who prescribed the medication and who dispensed it.
Putting the details together
While the use of a SCRIPTS report is normally for patient evaluations or drug-history confirmations, the goal of DHEC inspections is to monitor controlled-substance activity at the dispensing level, and the two sources of information can mesh. The DHEC receives hundreds of complaints yearly concerning the diversion of prescription medications, and healthcare professionals represent about 25 percent of those prosecuted.
Managing a violation
If a routine DHEC inspection at your pharmacy has turned up accountability and record-keeping concerns, you may receive an Order to Show Cause from the Department’s legal office. This means you must appear at a pre-hearing conference. If you are in violation of the South Carolina Controlled Substances Act, the DHEC may impose sanctions and fines on you and your pharmacy at the very least. If this happens, remember that there are legal options available to you.