Two paramedics in Australia have been arrested after being accused of stealing amounts of the painkiller fentanyl from ambulances and replacing it with water. According to a report published in the Australian newspaper The Age, hundreds of patients may have been given water instead of fentanyl while they were being rushed to the hospital.
Fentanyl is an extremely powerful painkiller that is about 100 times more potent than morphine. The drug is often administered by injection, but is also sold in the form of a transdermal patch either generically or under the brand name Duragesic. Pill forms (Fentora) and lollypop forms (Actiq) are also available.
Authorities in the case became aware of the thefts after their employer, Ambulance Victoria, inspected bottles which held the liquid fentanyl and found they had been tampered with. The ambulance service has since initiated new security precautions in order to limit the risk of fentanyl theft.
Police believe that the two individuals who have been arrested in connection with the thefts may be linked to a criminal organization. Because of its extreme potency, fentanyl is sometimes abused by individuals who are addicted to narcotics. Victoria, the area where the thefts occurred, has seen a high number of fentanyl overdoses in recent years.