Cops: Pharmacist diluted cancer drugs for money

A Kansas City, KS pharmacist has been charged with routinely diluting chemotherapy drugs prescribed for cancer patients in an effort to increase his own profits. Patients received as little as anywhere from 1% of the intended dose, police say.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Kansas City charged pharmacist Robert Courtney with one felony count of misbranding and adulteration of a drug. The charges were filed after investigators served a search warrant on the Research Medical Tower Pharmacy, which Courtney owns and operates. Courtney pleaded not guilty.

Authorities said the scheme was uncovered when a sales representative for Eli Lilly & Co., a chemotherapy drug manufacturer, noticed that the amount of cancer drug prescriptions seemingly being filled and billed for by Courtney’s pharmacy far exceeded the amount of the drugs the pharmacy purchased. The drugs involved, Taxol and Gemzar, are used to treat cancers of the lung, ovary, breast, pancreas, and for Kaposi’s sarcoma.

After authorities were notified, several prescriptions filled by Courtney’s pharmacy were sent for laboratory testing at the request of investigators. One prescription obtained by authorities contained none of the cancer drug whatsoever, and evidence indicates that many patients received only a third of the intended dose.

The pharmacy billed doctors and patients for the full strength of diluted drugs, and the potential profits for Courtney were substantial. One doctor prescribed 1,900 mg of Gemzar, which would have cost the pharmacy $1,021.25 to fill, but the amount actually found in the intravenous bag the pharmacy provided was only 450 mg, which cost the pharmacy about $241.88.