Unplugged medication refrigerator at UConn Health costs taxpayers more than $200k

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

FARMINGTON– An unplugged refrigerator at the University of Connecticut Health Center resulted in a costly loss last year.

On June 26, 2014, two nurses in the dermatology department noticed that the refrigerator in the clean utility room had been unplugged.

Inside the fridge were medications, mostly Botox and Stelera, a drug used to treat psoriasis, arthritis and other immune system disorders. Doses of Stelera are very expensive–one 90mg dose costs $13,000. The department says it gives 10-15 doses every 2-3 days. At the time of the incident, there were 14 injections of 45mg and 15 injections of 90mg in the fridge.

UConn Police investigated the incident and determined that the fridge was unplugged some time after 5:53 p.m. on Wednesday, June 25. However, after questioning faculty and maintenance staff they were unable to determine who was responsible.

The wholesale price for the drugs that were lost amounted to $307,000. Normally, the school qualifies for discounts that result in the drugs costing 1/3 of the wholesale price, but they weren’t eligible for that discount on the replacements. However, they did get some discounts, so the amount it cost taxpayers to replace the drugs was $216,000.

The spoiling of dermatology medications two summers ago stemmed from a refrigerator mistakenly becoming unplugged during off hours.

Systems were in place to ensure that the damaged medications were discovered swiftly once the practice opened the next morning and there was never any risk to patients as a result of this incident. After the incident was discovered, the inventory was quickly replaced in the locked refrigerator, which is in a locked utility room. Of note, no medications were stolen or tampered with and there is no evidence of criminal intent.

Other measures taken after the incident to ensure it didn’t happen again included posting signs saying to not unplug the refrigerator, and notifying staff of procedures and to not tamper with plugs.

Also, stock levels were halved so that amount of medication would not be lost again, and now the department receives daily deliveries.

Here is a statement on plans to improve the system:

UConn Health is working toward bringing all medication refrigerators online to be centrally monitored 24/7 and 365 days a year. This allows immediate notification to the Environment Control Center in Facilities. This transition to electronic medication refrigerator monitoring is in process across UConn Health’s clinical care areas, and additionally for other refrigerators within research locations.  Several locations have already completed transition to central monitoring and further implementation is underway at our existing sites in Farmington and satellite offices.