MIAMI (CBS4) – University of Miami President Donna Shalala says she was “outraged” to learn that millions of dollars of cancer-fighting medication had been stolen from UM’s Sylvester Cancer Center, and ultimately takes personal responsibility for the lapses that allowed it to happen.
“Absolutely,” Shalala responded when asked if the buck stops with her in the drug theft scandal that was revealed by The Miami Herald.
“Everybody that was responsible, directly responsible, is not here anymore,” Shalala told CBS4’s Gary Nelson.
The Herald reported that UM pharmacy technician Manuel Pacheco was charged with stealing upwards of a million dollars worth of drugs that cost thousands of dollars per dose. Police say Pacheco was able to get away with it because there was virtually no oversight of the pharmacy inventory. After a manager noticed that a lot of drugs seemed to be flying off the shelves the thefts were exposed, following a manual count and audit.
Security cameras subsequently captured images of Pacheco allegedly removing drugs from a refrigerator. Police found nearly a million dollars worth of the expensive drugs in a refrigerator of his Kendall condominium.
In all, $14,000,000 worth of drugs was taken over a three year period.
Shalala told CBS4 she doesn’t believe Pacheco acted alone in the case of the purloined prescriptions, that others were involved.
“Some of them are going to go to jail,” she said.
Miami police confirmed the investigation is on-going, and they think Pacheco didn’t steal the entire $14,000,000 worth of medication by himself.
“Our investigators are still working to see if they can link these thefts to other individuals,” Miami Police Sergeant Freddie Cruz said. “It’s possible there may be more arrests in the near future.”
Shalala admitted the university may have been lax in looking for corruption.
“All of us have to be vigilant, we have to have systems in place to prevent it,” Shalala said. “We certainly have improved our systems as part of this.”
Among the improvements: The security cameras that helped in the Pacheco arrest, installed only after the thefts were discovered.
The stolen drugs scandal has gone public just months after UM imposed deep budget cuts across its medical complex.
Shalala said insurance will cover some of the stolen medicine, but there will still be a “net” loss.
Acknowledging that UM’s medical school and hospital, “Uhealth,” is experiencing some acutely painful times, Shalala said the complex will “thrive,” and that it continues to attract some of the most gifted medical minds in the world.