Prescription medications, including controlled substances, were handed out to White House staffers haphazardly with little to no record keeping or appropriate care and limited oversight during previous presidential administrations, a new report has revealed.
An 80-page-document from the Department of Defense’s Office of the Inspector General found the White House Medical Unit had ‘severe and systemic’ breaches of protocol, used taxpayer dollars to buy unnecessary expensive brand-name drugs and provided care and medications to staff who were not eligible to receive such services from the clinic.
The investigation began in 2018 after the DoD received complaints that a senior military medical officer in the clinic had ‘engaged in improper medical practice.’
The report is based on records and prescriptions from 2017 to 2019 – when former President Donald Trump was in office – and interviews with more than 120 officials, including military providers and pharmacists.
The report stated: ‘All phases of the White House Medical Unit’s pharmacy operations had severe and systemic problems.’
The report is based on records and prescriptions from 2017 to 2019 – when former President Donald Trump was in office
Over a three-year period, the medical unit spent $46,500 for brand name Ambien and $98,000 on Provigil
Officials concluded in the report that while Trump served in the White House, the pharmacy allegedly kept chaotic, ‘handwritten records’ to track the amount of drugs in its possession and pharmacy employees distributed prescription and non-prescription drugs freely.
‘These records frequently contained errors in the medication counts, illegible text, or crossed out text that was not appropriately annotated,’ the report said.
One witness told the investigators the medical unit would ‘make prepacks of medications’ for multiple staffers in advance of overseas trips with a mix of medications in plastic bags.
A witness testimony in the report reads: ‘Those would typically be Ambien or Provigil and typically both… a lot of times they’d be like five tablets in a zip‑lock bag. Traditionally, we would hand these out.’
The witness added ‘a lot of times the senior staff would come by or their staff representatives… would come by the residence clinic to pick it up.
‘And it was very much a, “hey, I’m here to pick this up for Ms. X.” And the expectation was we just go ahead and pass it out.’
The report states it found a handwritten note from March 2014 – when former President Barack Obama was in office – with instructions to give out medications, ‘including all controlled substances,’ to representatives of patients the drugs were intended for ‘without the need to present the patient’s ID card.’
Controlled substances require special handling and record-keeping from pharmacies as they have a risk for dependence and abuse.
And over-the-counter medications were left out in ‘open bins’ for people to take as and when they desired.
Another witness was asked to hook someone up with some Provigil ‘as a parting gift for leaving the White House.’
The clinic, which is overseen by the White House Military Office, also spent extravagantly on brand-name drugs despite being required to use cheaper, generic versions.
Over a three-year period, the medical unit spent around ‘$46,500 for brand name Ambien, which is 174 times more expensive than the generic equivalent,’ said the report.
Ambien is the brand name of zolpidem, a sedative which is used to treat insomnia.
It also spent ‘an estimated $98,000 for brand name Provigil, which is 55 times more expensive than the generic equivalent.’
Provigil is a brand of modafinil which is a stimulant used to treat excessive sleepiness caused by sleep disorders such as narcolepsy and sleep apnea.
Both Ambien and Provigil are controlled drugs, meaning a prescription is needed to obtain them.
Investigators wrote: ‘The White House Medical Unit provided a wide range of health care and pharmaceutical services to ineligible White House staff in violation of Federal law and regulation and DoD policy.
‘Additionally, the White House Medical Unit dispensed prescription medications, including controlled substances, to ineligible White House staff.’
According to the report, the White House Medical Unit has roughly 60 patients enrolled in its clinic but gave ‘health care by proxy’ to 6,000 White House and other government and employees and contractors, many of whom were not entitled to receive it.
In its conclusion, the DoD OIG advised that the unit should be placed under an ‘oversight plan’ headed by senior health officials in the Department of Defense.
More vigorous policies must put in place for the control and management of prescription medication, the report said.
It also recommended the White House ‘establish controls for White House patient eligibility within the Military Health System.’