Archive for Thursday, August 23, 2001

Case against druggist detailed

Federal prosecutors say a ‘minimum of 150’ doses illegally diluted

August 23, 2001


— Pharmacist Robert R. Courtney may have diluted at least 150 intravenous bags for chemotherapy patients, prosecutors said, the first time authorities have publicly measured the depth of Courtney's alleged fraud.

In a civil court filing Wednesday, federal prosecutors said their investigation "suggests a minimum of 150 separate dilutions" with each dilution counting as both a "misbranding" and an adulteration under federal law.

Responding to requests made in the filing, Judge Scott O. Wright froze a portion of Courtney's assets at Lincoln National Corp., a brokerage believed to hold much of his fortune. Wright's order, however, allows Courtney's family to withdraw up to $500,000 to pay legal fees.

Wright also ordered Courtney to surrender his state and federal pharmaceutical licenses, and ordered Courtney and the government to begin work on shutting down Courtney's two pharmacies. Wright's order did not give his reason.

The prosecutors' filing had asked Wright to shut down one of Courtney's pharmacies, Research Medical Tower Pharmacy in Kansas City, Mo., and freeze $6 million of his assets.

The 150 alleged dilutions could expose Courtney to as many as 300 fines of $10,000 each, or $3 million total. So far, Courtney is charged only with a single count of misbranding and adulterating a drug.

Courtney has told FBI investigators he diluted expensive cancer drugs Gemzar and Taxol to make money, and a judge's order keeping Courtney held without bond said he was motivated by a $600,000 tax bill. The drugs were given to doctors from Research Medical Tower.

Courtney, 48, is being held at a privately run jail in Leavenworth, Kan. His attorney, Jean Paul Bradshaw, said the order wasn't a surprise. He said Courtney plans to sell both pharmacies and turn in his licenses.

"Obviously Mr. Courtney is not going to be using those where he is right now," Bradshaw said.

Research Medical Tower and Courtney's Pharmacy in suburban Merriam, Kan., are both owned by Courtney Pharmacy Inc. Authorities had earlier said Courtney's Merriam store was not under scrutiny, but prosecutors later asked Wright for an order barring the parent company from selling pharmaceuticals a move to keep both stores from dispensing drugs.

Courtney had already offered to surrender his own licenses and permits if he was granted bond, but U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert E. Larsen on Monday refused bond and called Courtney a flight risk and a danger to the community.

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