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Chicago Health Department Wasting Money on Drugs

By Samantha Abernethy in News on Feb 4, 2009 5:20PM

2009_02_04_meds.jpg The audit of a Chicago Health Department warehouse revealed that nearly $1 million's worth of drugs had either expired or disappeared, due to shoddy record-keeping and/or lax security. The warehouse on the Near North Side stored medicines, vaccines, birth control, antibiotics, condoms and baby formula, but nothing harder than that. The city lost its license to handle harder drugs last year for the same reason: poor record-keeping.

The audit came from the office of Chicago's Inspector General David Hoffman, whose office also gave us the scathing Streets and Sanitation report in October of last year. "It's a high potential for abuse and theft and diverting legitimate controlled substances to the black market," DEA spokeswoman Joanna Zoltay said. "I'm not saying the city of Chicago did that. All I'm saying is they did not keep records."

Taxpayers lost $365,000 on expired medications that never reached patients. More disturbingly, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of vaccines and birth control packets appear to be "lost". City health commissioner Dr. Terry Mason said he did not believe theft was the problem, just poor record-keeping. In case you thought the Chicago Health Department might have had money to burn, remember that the city is closing at least four mental health centers because it can't come up with the $1.2 million necessary to fund it. The warehouse had been used to save money in the first place, giving the city the opportunity to buy products in bulk at a lower price. Because of the mismanagement, the warehouse was closed Dec. 31, and the health commissioner changed the way that drugs are distributed to local clinics, in small batches direct from the distributor.