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Unformatted text preview: The Toxic Pharmacist
The Toxic Pharmacist
White Collar Crime
CRJU E491WFall 2011
William C. Smith Robert Courtney
Robert Courtney After graduation from Pharmacy School in 1975, Robert Courtney went to work for Research Medical Tower Pharmacy in Kansas City, Missouri, where he was soon made manager.
In 1986, Courtney purchased the pharmacy and soon bought another store. Courtney operated a compounding pharmacy as an independent pharmacist. Independent pharmacies seldom generate the revenue amounts that chain pharmacies generate.
Beginning in 1990, around the time of his first divorce, Courtney started buying “gray market” drugs and using them to fill prescriptions at his pharmacies in order to make more money, and also sold generic drugs at brandname prices. Drug Diluting
Drug Diluting Also, in the early 1990s, Courtney began the lucrative practice of mixing chemotherapy drugs for physicians in the Research Medical Tower.
Courtney quickly realized that he could make large amounts of profit by “diluting” the expensive chemotherapy medication he was compounding. Getting Caught
Getting Caught Courtney’s undoing began slowly when he would not respond to inquiries from pharmaceutical reps about how much of their drugs he was selling.
A sales representative for Eli Lilly believed Courtney was getting the drugs outside of regular channels, but an internal investigation by Eli Lilly did not disclose another supplier.
In 1998, Eli Lilly discovered that Courtney was selling more of its Gemzar chemotherapy medication to the doctors in the Research Medical Tower than he was buying from Lilly, the manufacturer. The Sting
The Sting One of the doctors, Verda Hunter, who regularly bought cancer treatment drugs from Courtney, learned of the Lilly discovery and became alarmed. She decided to have one of the prescriptions for Taxol, a drug used to treat breast cancer, lung cancer, and ovarian cancer, tested. When the test results revealed that the drug was diluted, Dr. Hunter notified the F.B.I. and F.D.A., who reviewed the test results on July 27, 2001 and persuaded her to participate in a “sting” operation. Hunter ordered six more Taxol prescriptions from Courtney. The F.D.A. test results showed that each had been diluted to between 17 and 39 percent of the required dosage. Similar results were found for prescriptions of Gemzar that Hunter also ordered as part of the sting.
On August 13, 2001, federal lawenforcement agents, armed with a search warrant, raided Courtney’s pharmacy and then arrested him. The Plea
The Plea After his arrest in August 2001, Courtney initially pleaded not guilty. In February 2002, however, Courtney pleaded guilty to 20 counts of tampering and adulterating or misbranding the chemotherapy drugs Taxol and Gemzar, in exchange for a federal prison sentence of not more than 30 years. He was ultimately sentenced to serve the 30 years.
Courtney was also fined $25,000 and ordered to pay $10.5 million in restitution and all of his assets were seized. Additional Acts Courtney also acknowledged that he and his corporation, Courtney Pharmacy Inc., weakened the anticancer drugs Platinol and Paraplatin, conspired to traffic in stolen drugs and caused the filing of false Medicare claims.
After he entered his pleas, Courtney further acknowledged to federal investigators that he had diluted additional drugs, including fertility drugs, antibiotics, drugs to prevent nausea and drugs to improve blood clotting. Civil Lawsuits
Civil Lawsuits In addition to the criminal sentence he received, Courtney also lost a civil suit filed by one of the victims of his crimes, Georgia Hayes, and was ordered to pay $2.2 billion.
More than 400 other additional civil suits were filed against Courtney. Collateral Damage
Collateral Damage Eli Lilly and BristolMyers Squibb were also sued over Courtney’s actions; plaintiffs alleging that they were aware of his actions and did not report their knowledge to authorities which resulted in the untimely deaths of many cancer patients.
Between them, the two companies settled over 300 such civil suits for an undisclosed amount. How Could He Do It?
How Could He Do It? We have “blind trust” in pharmacists, don’t check their credentials, or check to see if there have been any malpractice suits filed against them.
The F.D.A. “closed” supply chain is anything but closed and drug companies estimate that 10% of the medication circulating in the supply chain is counterfeit. IMS Health, the organization which tracks pharmaceutical sales, admits that it can only keep track of “roughly 70 percent of all prescriptions dispensed in the U.S.” Different patients respond in different ways to the same medication, with side effects as individual as the patients themselves, so that the absence of side effects was likely seen as a positive by Courtney’s customers. Why Did He Why Did He Do It? What Was the Impact?
What Was the Impact? The FBI estimated that Courtney’s dilutions impacted 400 doctors, 4,200 patients, and up to 98,000 prescriptions. Of the 34 cancer victims specifically mentioned in the charges against Courtney, half died. Besides chemotherapy medication, Courtney adulterated drugs to treat infertility, diabetes, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and other diseases.
In the civil suit against Courtney, a professor of pharmacology testified that receiving a weaker dose of chemotherapy drugs may be worse than receiving no drugs at all. When the drugs are not at full strength, cancer cells can build a resistance to them and become stronger. ...
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This note was uploaded on 02/20/2012 for the course CRJU E491 taught by Professor Mr.smith during the Fall '11 term at South Carolina.
- Fall '11