At the Frontline: Former Texas Children's Hospital security chief Robert Owles

Industry veteran discusses securing pharmacies against robberies, internal thefts


What kinds of security technologies and procedures did you have in place at the outpatient pharmacy when you were security director at Texas Children's Hospital?

Outpatient pharmacies are similar to your community pharmacies in a sense that they are subject to the same risks that your other pharmacies have. We took the same type of approach. We did a risk assessment and looked at what the vulnerabilities were and then of course we hardened the target. We used the glass that had the (bulletproof) glaze to prevent projectiles from coming through and we incorporated drawers that could be used to pass the prescriptions and money back and forth where people did not have access to pharmacy employees inside. We also employed off-duty police officers. With those mitigating factors we put what I call an "umbrella" around our pharmaceutical areas, especially the ones for outpatient dispensing to protect them.

Aside from robberies, what are some of the biggest security threats facing pharmacies today?

There are a lot of other things going on and it has to do with drug diversion. It goes back to stolen prescription pads and the fraudulent altering of those pads. We had a program in the hospital specifically to ensure that those pads were always protected and they weren't placed in the doctors' drawer where someone would have ready access to them. I think that fake call-ins are another big (security) risk for pharmacies. A lot of pharmacies do not have the ability to ensure that the person calling in (the prescription) is authorized to do so and they're allowing the dispensing of drugs to an illegal or unauthorized person. Overprescribing by doctors is another big issue... and pharmaceutical organizations need to be very aware and keen to what's happening there. I also haven't seen many people talk about impaired employees and techs and their potential collusion with a criminal element.