A group of largely unlicensed doctors and nurses at the United Nations are distributing controlled narcotics including Valium, Diazepam and Demerol, and in some cases they are self-medicating themselves with the drugs, according to a published report.
Serguei Oleinikov, deputy director of the U.N. Medical Service, recently approved the "disposal" of dozens of unexpired Valium tablets from the fifth-floor department within the United Nation's headquarters in midtown Manhattan, Inner City Press reports.
Ruth Martin Agwai, one of the unlicensed nurses reportedly connected to the scheme, is married to Martin Luther Agwai, a Nigerian general who is the commander of the United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur. According to Inner City Press, Agwai has used the diplomatic pouch and privileges granted to her by the Nigerian Mission to the U.N. to take medical equipment overseas.
In some, but not all instances, U.N. Medical Service staff have maintained their licenses in their native countries. But sources told the Inner City Press that several staffers have not kept medical licenses overseas or ever had them.
Since the U.N.'s headquarters are technically in international territory, U.S. authorities have yet to file charges. But if unlicensed doctors or nurses practice medicine or distribute medication without a license within city limits, they would be subject to prosecution.
U.N. officials acknowledged an investigation into "pharmaceutical control measures," in a statement it e-mailed to Inner City Press and FOXNews.com.
"A requirement for recruitment of doctors and nurses employed by the United Nations is that they are registered to practice their professions in their country of origin," the statement said. "A limited quantity of medications is maintained on site, and stock control is rigorously performed, and is verifiable, according to standard pharmaceutical control norms.
"The recent allegations regarding pharmaceutical control measures at the United Nations are not new and are in fact being investigated by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS). The Medical Services Division has provided its full cooperation to OIOS in that regard."
Inner City Press learned of these "irregularities" following its reporting on the death of a U.N. staffer last month. Jesmel Navoa reportedly suffered a stroke while working in the U.N.'s publishing shop and did not receive medical attention for more than an hour. There was neither a U.N. Medical Service doctor nor staffers trained in life support procedures on duty at the time, Inner City Press reported.
U.N. Medical Service Director Brian Davey held a staff meeting this week to train staffers how and when to call emergency responders, Inner City Press reports.
Dr. Manny Alvarez, managing editor of health news at FOXNews.com and chairman of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive science at New Jersey's Hackensack University Medical Center, said misuse of the medications alleged in the scheme could be fatal.
"All of those medications have the potential to be habit-forming and are strictly controlled in the U.S. under tight prescriptions laws so that reckless use is avoided," Alvarez told FOXNews.com. "All of these medications have the potential to get you hooked on them."
Combining controlled narcotics like Valium and Diazepam with alcohol or ingesting them in large doses could be particularly troublesome for elderly patients or those with chronic kidney disease, Alvarez said.
"These medications are used for specific reasons for short periods of time," he continued. "They're not given without supervision and certainly not for long periods of time."
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story omitted the U.N.'s response that "A requirement for recruitment of doctors and nurses employed by the United Nations is that they are registered to practice their professions in their country of origin," the statement said. "A limited quantity of medications is maintained on site, and stock control is rigorously performed, and is verifiable, according to standard pharmaceutical control norms."