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Controlled drugs cabinet keys

 Information on Controlled Drugs Cabinet Keys

The safe storage of controlled drugs cabinet keys are as important as the storage of the Controlled drugs themselves. Insecurely kept controlled drugs cabinet keys will compromise the arrangements put in place for the security of the controlled drugs.

Pharmacy Medicals Controlled Drugs Cabinet Keys

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controlled drugs cabinet keys secure storage showing key code

controlled drugs cabinet keys secure storage showing key code

Poor key security will undermine the value of having a controlled drugs cabinet in the first place. If controlled drugs cabinet keys can easily be obtained by unauthorised personnel then the construction of the cabinet itself is to a large degree irrelevant. Care need to be taken when selecting the location for the storage of keys in particular any spare sets.

The Misuse of drugs (safe custody) regulations 1974 and BS 2881:1989 do not legislate for the use of Combination type locks on controlled drugs cabinets so conventional keys only can be used.  Therefore to protect the keys it is sensible to use a key safe with a combination lock. This will ensure  the safe storage of controlled drugs cabinet keys and prevent their unauthorised use.

Where a single or very small number of controlled drugs cabinets are used then a small key safe will be sufficient to safely store the controlled drugs cabinet keys.

However where a larger number of cabinets are used it may be preferable to use either:-

  • A larger key safe which will provide for the storage of a larger number of keys. Consideration should be given to the construction of type of safe as covered later in this piece.
  • To mitigate the risk, several small combination key safes could be used. One key safe per cabinet  would increase the security and give more specific access to the individual cabinets.


If the larger key safe method of controlled drugs cabinet key storage is preferred then consideration must be given to the construction of the key safe itself. The key safe must be manufactured to at least the same or higher level of security than that of the controlled drugs cabinets the keys are for. Consideration should also be given to the method of fixing to a wall to prevent the unit from being removed. It is good practice to site the key safe away from the cabinets it contains the keys for and not to put any identifiable marks on the outside to the cabinet to identify what is kept within.

If the key safe is only made from thin material then its security or lack of it will compromise and undermine the security of all the cabinets for which it holds the keys.

It is not considered good practice to keep controlled drugs cabinet keys in a desk drawer or other locked piece of office furniture.


controlled drugs cabinet keys secure storage, cabinet open.

controlled drugs cabinet keys secure storage, cabinet open.

If combination key safes are used then the suggestions below are considered to be good practice:-

  • Do not write down the combination
  • If the combinations are issued to individual members of staff do not share these with other staff members.
  • Change all combinations regularly, at least twice yearly.
  • Change combinations when there are grounds to suspect they may have become compromised.
  • Change the combination whenever a staff member with access to the code moves department or leaves.


The information contained within this blog is by no means exhaustive. You are strongly advised to seek advice from your accountable officer before implementing any of the suggestions made above.

However we hope this is of assistance and should you wish to discuss it or any aspect of the storage of Controlled drugs further we would be happy to help if we can.