Australian pain-killer switch affects hundreds

Hundreds of Australians were given water instead of pain-killing medication after thieves siphoned off the drugs from ambulance supplies and refilled the empty vials from the tap, officials said Tuesday.

Authorities in the state of Victoria said large amounts of the drug had been taken and an investigation was under way.

"We can confirm that Victoria Police are investigating allegations of theft from a number of Ambulance Victoria response stations," a police spokesman said, adding that two men had been questioned over the theft.

Ambulance Victoria chief executive Greg Sassella said hundreds of patients were affected by the switch.

"We have been able to identify all those patients that may have come into contact with this issue and we have been in direct contact with them and we can assure them they are safe," he said.

"We apologise for any sub-optimal pain relief they had."

Sassella said Victoria's had changed its protocols for the use of fentanyl, which would now be stored in vials that contained less of the drug and had a more robust steel cap.

Fentanyl is a potent often used by paramedics as a fast-acting pain-killer and usually administered as a . It can be addictive and is used by some drug abusers as a substitute for heroin.

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PhotonX
not rated yet Oct 16, 2012
Seems to me that a thief would simply take off with the vials. Replacing the contents looks more like an inside job. A stupid one, albeit, since the switch immediately throws suspicion on the paramedics and anyone else with regular access to the ambulances.