Officials respond to DOC audit, investigation

DOC Central Pharmacy dispensed drugs

January 4, 2010 5:40:24 PM PST
The state auditor said last week the prisons' pharmacy program cannot say how much money in pills is lost or thrown away annually. The audit was a direct result of an I-Team investigation.

Click here to read the entire report on the State Auditor Web site (.pdf)

ABC11 Eyewitness News broke the story 18 months ago, on state drugs dumped at a local landfill.

Someone sent ABC11 some photos, which led to an investigation and then a state audit.

The anonymous photos from 2008 showed prescription pills, meant for prison inmates, actually dumped at the Wake County landfill.

Eyewitness News research showed that the Department of Correction was throwing away about 400 pounds of pills a month.

Last week, more than a year after that first story, the state auditor released a report which said the prisons central pharmacy still lacked basic accounting procedures.

"They still don't have a system in place for the drugs that are being thrown away," State Auditor Beth Wood said.

Wood's report said most of the pharmacy's inventory counts were wrong.

Pharmacy staff in one year made almost 3,000 inventory adjustments, but gave no reasons for changing pill counts.

She said there is so little information that there's no way to know if the drugs were lost, stolen, or expired and thrown away.

"Was there any theft, was there any loss, we just don't know," Wood said. "We can't answer those questions."

The DOC says hiring new staff to simply check inventory would not be worth the added cost.

But now a state senator who leads a committee on the prisons budget says she wants to know more.

"This is the tax-payers money and we better start looking very carefully where $25 million a year is being spent," Carrboro Sen. Ellie Kinnaird said.

Back in July of 2008, Senator Kinnaird suggested the Legislature needed to look into prison pills and where they were really going? But questions from lawmakers never really came.

"I'm sorry that it slipped through the cracks," Kinnaird said. "We should have followed up on it. We definitely should have followed up."

Now, she says prison pills deserve their own hearing.

"We need to get on it," Kinnaird said. "We need to not let this continue and I pledge that we will."

Corrections officials declined to comment, but responding to the state audit, they note they fill 4,800 inmate prescriptions a day, by hand.

They say a new robotic dispenser system is coming and will help control inventory.

Senator Kinnaird says she was surprised to know the state is filling all those pill boxes by hand.

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