American Society of Anesthesiologists - ASA Member Testifies at Veterans Affairs Hearing

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ASA Member Testifies at Veterans Affairs Hearing

On Monday, February 27, ASA member Keith Berge, M.D., testified at the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs’ Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on “Assessing VA’s Risks for Drug Diversion.” Dr. Berge, who serves as Chair of the Mayo Clinic’s Enterprise-wide Medication Diversion Prevention Committee, was one of six witnesses at the hearing on efforts to ensure patients medicines are properly received.  The hearing was in response to a report on distribution of controlled substances within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

During the hearing, Dr. Berge spoke as a consultant to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and discussed the critical patient safety issue of the spread of potentially lethal diseases as a result of drug diversion. He provided the committee with a Center for Disease Control (CDC) review outlining six outbreaks, in which patients were administered drugs via contaminated needles as well as testimony detailing the cases of approximately 50 VA patients infected by a drug diverter. Dr. Berge called on the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to implement stringent drug control policies and procedures in order to protect a vulnerable patient population and pointed to the successes and continued development of the Mayo Clinic’s drug diversion intervention program as a model to follow. While recognizing that drug diversion is a problem that will never be wholly eliminated, Dr. Berge stated that the focus must be on rapid detection and prosecution of drug diverters in order to protect the health and safety of patients, health care workers and the diverters themselves.

ASA also submitted formal comments for the hearing on the impact of this issue on patient safety.

Other witnesses at the hearing included Carolyn Clancy, M.D., Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Organizational Excellence, Veterans Health Administration (VHA), on behalf of VA; Nick Dahl, Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Audits and Evaluations, on behalf of VA Office of Inspector General; Michael H. Valentino, R. Ph., MHSA, Chief Consultant, VHA, Pharmacy Benefits Management Services, on behalf of VA; Emorfia Valkanos, R. Ph., Health Systems Specialist, Office of Healthcare Inspections, on behalf of VA Office of Inspector General; and Randall B. Williamson, Director, Healthcare Team, U.S. Government Accountability Office, on behalf of U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Watch a recording of the hearing here.

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