Preventing Theft of Your Sample Medications

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Neil Baum, MD

Clinical Associate Professor of Urology, Tulane Medical School, New Orleans, LA

Author, Marketing Your Clinical Practice-Ethically, Effectively, and Economically, Jones Bartlett Publishers


It is quite common to have samples “lost” or missing from your sample closet. Quality assurance may require practices to have a sample log to record what samples were given to patients. This innovative management practice may become mandatory in the near future. Lost or missing samples will create a problem for many practices even if the samples are locked in a room or cupboard.

Our practice found that the locked cabinets were forced open by breaking the locks in order to remove the valuable phosphodiesterase 5-inhibitors (PDE-5 inhibitors) Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra, which have a retail value of $20 per pill and probably a higher street value.

Since the cabinets were locked at the end of the work day and were not opened until the beginning of next day, before patients were seen, it didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to discover that the cleaning crews were breaking the locks on the sample cabinets to gain access to the valuable erectile dysfunction drugs.

The PDE-5 inhibitor samples were moved to a more secure location in the locked chart rack. A sign was placed on the locked cabinet where the samples are kept indicating that no PDE-5 inhibitors were in the cabinet. A sign was also placed on the door to the sample cupboard, indicating that a surveillance camera was operating and would record anyone who was breaking, entering, and removing samples. The camera was an inexpensive dummy ($5.95) installed on the ceiling of the sample room, which detects motion and sweeps back and forth with a flashing LED. Since the use of the two signs, no tampering of the sample cabinet has occurred.