DHEC's Bureau of Drug Control enforces the S.C. Controlled Substances Act, which closely parallels the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970. The S.C. Controlled Substances Act:
- Requires that every person or entity who engages in controlled substances activity in South Carolina:
- Empowers DHEC to decrease the diversion of controlled substances from legal sources to illegal ones by maintaining a closed system of distribution
- Authorizes DHEC to use South Carolina licensed pharmacists who are also commissioned as state law enforcement officers (Section 44-53-480). These pharmacists have received certification training at the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy.
We typically conduct 750 to 850 annual site inspections of pharmacies, hospitals, and practitioners. Our inspectors:
- Make sure that registrants are properly maintaining records and accountability and storing controlled substances securely
- Make recommendations and offer assistance to help registrants follow proper procedures in the handling of controlled substances
- Conduct 75‑100 in‑depth, onsite accountability audits of controlled substances stocked by pharmacies, hospitals, and practitioners. Some audits are performed randomly and routinely even though no problems are suspected or anticipated. Other audits are performed where routine inspections have revealed unacceptable record keeping or potential diversion, or where complaints have been received about possible diversion activity.
Violations and discrepancies discovered during investigations, inspections or audits may lead the BDC to take administrative action against a facility or practitioner.
In most cases, the BDC and the DHEC legal office issue an Order to Show Cause. The order requires that a facility's designated representative or an individual practitioner appear at an informal pre‑hearing conference.
Most matters are resolved at these pre‑hearing conferences, usually through the issuance of an Administrative Consent Order. An Administrative Consent Order imposes sanctions and, in some cases, monetary fines. The fines are forwarded to the S.C. Department of Mental Health for use in state alcohol and drug treatment centers.
We receive 750 to 1,000 complaints each year involving diversion of controlled substances from legal outlets. About 450-500 of the complaints typically result in the arrest and prosecution of individuals in state or federal court. Approximately 25 percent of those prosecuted are healthcare professionals.