Press Release

ASHP Publishes Controlled Substances Diversion Prevention Guidelines

Recommendations Call for Collaboration, Systematic Approach


ASHP today published the first set of national guidelines designed to help healthcare organizations devise and implement strategies to prevent the diversion of controlled substances. The guidelines include a framework for creating a collaborative, comprehensive controlled substances diversion prevention program (CSDPP) to protect patients, employees, organizations, and the community.

According to the 2015 National Drug Threat Assessment (NDTA), abuse of controlled prescription drugs is more common than that of cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, MDMA, and PCP combined. Pharmacists face increasing pressure to ensure the security of controlled substances across large healthcare organizations, even as those organizations seek to identify and prevent diversion and abuse of prescription drugs by healthcare workers.

“Diversion of controlled substances by healthcare workers remains a serious problem that increases the potential for serious patient safety issues, causes harm to the diverter, and elevates the liability risk to healthcare organizations,” said David Chen, B.S.Pharm., M.B.A., Senior Director, ASHP Section of Pharmacy Practice Managers. “These guidelines give pharmacists tools to not only improve controlled substances management, but also to play a prominent role in systemwide diversion prevention efforts at their practice sites.”

An expert panel drafted the guidelines based on recommendations and best practices culled from the scientific literature, state hospital association guidance, and Drug Enforcement Administration settlements. The recommendations are applicable to a variety of patient care settings in which pharmacists typically have responsibility for purchasing, procuring, monitoring, and distributing controlled substances, including inpatient settings and outpatient and community pharmacies.

The guidelines encourage healthcare organizations to develop a CSDPP that complies with applicable federal and state laws and regulations; supports rigorous monitoring and surveillance, human resource management, and substance abuse treatment programs; and establishes systems to positively influence prescribing, procurement, dispensing, administration, and proper disposal and wasting of controlled substances. Other elements of an effective CSDPP include use of technology to routinely review process compliance and effectiveness, strengthen controls, and proactively prevent diversion as well as staff education on the signs and symptoms of impaired healthcare workers.

The guidelines feature two appendices that provide definitions of commonly used terms and specific guidance regarding implementation strategies, examples of best practices, and key action steps to assist in self-assessment.

The guidelines are available online here. They will be published in an upcoming issue of AJHP in early 2017.

About ASHP
ASHP represents pharmacists who serve as patient care providers in acute and ambulatory settings. The organization’s more than 43,000 members include pharmacists, student pharmacists, and pharmacy technicians. For over 70 years, ASHP has been at the forefront of efforts to improve medication use and enhance patient safety. For more information about the wide array of ASHP activities and the many ways in which pharmacists advance healthcare, visit ASHP’s website,, or its consumer website,
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