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May 23, 2013

State investigation seeks missing Bassett Rx pads

The state is investigating the possible theft of blank prescription pads from Bassett Medical Center, a spokeswoman for the hospital confirmed Monday.

“Bassett is cooperating with the Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement on an investigation into missing prescription forms,” Karen Huxtable-Hooker said. “Because the investigation is ongoing and not yet concluded, we don’t have many details.”

She declined to describe their disappearance as a theft.

However, a state Health Department spokesman termed the case an “alleged theft” in confirming the investigation. He, too, declined to provide details.

“The department is aware of and investigating the alleged theft of prescription pads from Bassett hospital,” spokesman Jeffrey Hammond said last week. “The investigation is ongoing.”

It was unclear how many pads were missing or stolen. Prescription pads typically contain 100 blanks, each of which has a unique alphanumeric identification code.

They are issued by the Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, a unit of the state Health Department.

According to an internal Health Department memo from 2011 that was obtained by another media outlet and posted online, the street value of a prescription blank in New York City was $100 to $300. The blank forms are most often used to obtain various brands of oxycodone, the memo said, adding that the street value of a 30-milligram oxycodone pill was $25-$35.

The memo was written in connection with the department’s conclusion that a “significant number of thefts and losses” of prescription pads was occurring in the city, primarily at hospitals operated by the municipal Health and Hospitals Corp. It went on to say those institutions were “not adequately safeguarding the prescription forms.”

It estimated 1.4 million stolen or counterfeit blanks were circulating in the city.

Lt. Douglas Brenner of the Oneonta Police Department said the problem is extensive. “We’ve had similar cases,” he said.

“A while ago, we had an arrest in Oneonta, where someone had tried to pass a forged prescription, and it turned into a larger investigation, involving several other counties,” Brenner said. “This person either forged or (had) stolen prescription pads from another area and way was trying to pass them through a large part of New York state. And it resulted in several arrests for us and for other agencies.”

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