Recently, an unnamed NFL trainer told Gary Myers of the New York Daily News that the unnamed NFL trainer’s team does not keep a supply of prescription medication in the facility. Instead, prescriptions are delivered multiple times per day by a local pharmacy.
It’s unclear how many teams follow this approach and how many operate like the Saints, keeping a proverbial cookie jar of federally-regulated medications in the building. Though the NFL has been generally tight-lipped regarding the civil lawsuit alleging that Saints G.M. Mickey Loomis tried to cover up the abuse and/or theft of Vicodin by multiple team employees, league spokesman Greg Aiello confirmed that the NFL “conduct[s] regular audits of prescription medications dispensed through the club medical staffs.” This implies that the maintenance of a supply of medications by the team isn’t a rare occurrence, but instead that it’s sufficiently commonplace to result in the league keeping close track of the cookies.
The potential flaw in that approach is obvious — the presence of the medications creates a temptation to abuse and/or steal them.
Still, two former NFL team doctors have told Nakia Hogan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune that the Saints “followed standard NFL practices” in maintaining an in-house stash of medications. Dr. Pierce Scranton, former team doctor for the Seahawks and ex-president of the NFL Physician Society, shrugged at the possibility that the cookie jar will be raided. “If a coach broke into a thing and stole it, that could happen anywhere,
” Scranton said. “People are robbing drug stores all the time for
So, apparently, the fact that criminals routinely bust into Walgreen’s and burgle the medications means that the potential theft of drugs from a locker maintained in a team facility represents an acceptable risk for the convenience of having the drugs immediately available.
Frankly, Dr. Scranton, your position makes no sense, especially since it doesn’t take into account the possibility that, as alleged in the lawsuit filed against the Saints, at least one employee who did not have a painful medical condition was being given amounts of Vicodin that would suggest abuse.
The more prudent practice is reflected by the unnamed trainer who spoke to Myers. Surely, there’s a local pharmacy in each NFL city that gladly will supply the medications and deliver them as needed.
The approach used by the Saints (and presumably others) also invites other irregularities. For instance, we’ve heard from multiple sources that the Saints were (and possibly still are) obtaining their medications via a prescription made out generally to the team, and not to the individuals who are receiving the medications. That’s a no-no for the doctor writing the prescriptions and the pharmacy that is filling them.
Bottom line? The magnitude of medications taken by football players easily can desensitize teams to the realities — and legalities — of the process. The smart teams will avoid the establishment of an in-house pharmacy or, at a minimum, ensure that the drug locker is regarded as off limits by those who may be inclined to make a midnight refrigerator run. This means safeguarding the medications diligently, and dealing swiftly and harshly with those who improperly remove drugs from the locker.
The Saints allegedly have failed in this regard. Even if the Saints are exonerated, it makes too much sense for them and other NFL franchises who opt for convenience when it comes to prescription medications to embrace inconvenience in the name of not leading the players, coaches, and other employees into avoidable temptation.