Australian pain-killer switch affects hundreds

October 16, 2012

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.

Explore further: Non-narcotic pain medication is safe and effective after sinus surgery

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Researchers identify drug that alleviates opioid withdrawal

January 30, 2017

Opioid use and abuse is a significant social, health and economic issue in Canada. Researchers at the University of Calgary's Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM) and Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI) have discovered that ...

Detecting counterfeit medicines

January 27, 2017

Bernard Naughton and Dr David Brindley from Oxford University's Saïd Business School and Medical Sciences Division discuss the problems of identifying fake, substandard and expired medicines.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

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.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.