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Theft and loss of medications from health facilities and licence or permit holders

Manufacturers, wholesalers, researchers, retailers and health services who hold a licence or permit that authorises them to possess, sell or supply drugs or substances that are subject to misuse or possible diversion are required to report any suspected theft or loss of drugs, or a quantity of drugs, that cannot be reasonably accounted for.

When should a report be made?

When there are reasonable grounds to suspect a:

  • theft or loss of a drug, prohibited substance or Schedule 7 poison,
  • quantity of drugs or prohibited substances that cannot be reasonably accounted for OR
  • staff member and/or contractor who has access to such drugs or prohibited substances behaves in a way that makes you or others suspect that the person may be abusing or diverting drugs or substances.

Who needs to be notified and how?

Staff should report the matter to the licence or permit holder or to a senior manager specifically delegated by the licence or permit holder.

If the licence holder or delegate, through their own internal investigation, has reason to suspect that a theft has occurred or that a loss cannot be reasonably accounted for, they should report the matter to the nominated pharmacist (where the licence holder is a health service and there is a pharmacist employed there) so that a coordinated investigation can be undertaken.

Suspected theft

In the case of suspected theft, a report should be made to:

Unaccounted loss

In the case of unaccounted loss, a report should be made to:

Suspected drug or substance abuse or diversion by a staff member or contracted staff

In the case of suspected drug or substance abuse or diversion by a staff member or contracted staff, report to:

Why should suspected theft or loss of certain drugs or substances be reported?

Drug or substance misuse, abuse or diversion is a serious public health risk and the state authority has a duty to monitor, investigate and help minimise this risk.

Theft of drugs and substances is illegal. It is also illegal for a person to possess, consume, or supply to another person, any Prescription Drug (Schedule 4 or Schedule 8 poison) or Controlled Substance unless specifically permitted by the legislation1.

A licence holder who knowingly permits offences against the Controlled Substances Act may be considered an accomplice, and themselves at risk of prosecution and penalty.

Failure to comply with a condition of a licence or permit provides grounds for the Minister to revoke a licence or permit. Non-compliance, inadequate supervision or handling of drugs or substances may also place in jeopardy the grant of any further licence or permit after the current licence or permit has expired2.


1 Sections 18 and 33L, Controlled Substances Act 1984

2 Section 55, Controlled Substances Act 1984

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