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Archive for Thursday, December 6, 2001

Samples traced to store connected to jailed Kansas City pharmacist

December 6, 2001

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— Agents are investigating whether someone besides Robert Courtney diluted a fertility medication sold at another of the jailed druggist's pharmacies, the FBI said Wednesday.

Courtney is charged with diluting the cancer drugs Gemzar and Taxol at his Research Medical Tower Pharmacy in Kansas City. Tests released Tuesday showed two samples of progesterone from his store in Merriam had been watered down.

"We're looking at the possibility that a second person may have done these dilutions" because Courtney had little involvement with the Kansas store, FBI spokesman Jeff Lanza said.

Store manager Greg Geier said Courtney "has not filled a prescription here for at least five years and probably beyond that."

No one has been charged or taken into custody after the latest tests, Lanza said.

"There are a limited number of people who are responsible for mixing drugs at the pharmacy," he said.

Courtney has been detained without bond since his Aug. 15 arrest. He was later indicted on 20 federal counts of tampering, adulterating and misbranding the chemotherapy drugs. He has pleaded innocent and is scheduled for trial in March.

His attorney, Jean Paul Bradshaw II, said Wednesday the FBI hadn't told him anything about the latest test results or an expansion of the investigation.

The government claims Courtney confessed that he diluted the chemotherapy drugs so he could pocket the difference in price. Courtney owed more than $600,000 in taxes and $330,000 on a pledge to his church, according to court papers filed Monday.

But progesterone is not a particularly expensive drug, Lanza said, suggesting a different motive for the alleged dilutions.

Lanza said the federal Food and Drug Administration, which examined the progesterone samples, is also testing the potency of other drugs from the Merriam store. Lanza would not say which drugs were being tested or when results were expected.

Yet, they said Courtney is unlikely to face additional charges until a jury has heard the case on the initial 20 counts.

The investigation

Previously, investigators had focused their attention on Courtney's Missouri pharmacy and discouraged patients from submitting medications for testing that were obtained elsewhere.

But just after Courtney's alleged dilutions surfaced in August, a woman who had obtained progesterone from the Kansas pharmacy submitted the two samples to the FBI for testing, Lanza said.

Lanza said the tests were completed within the last two or three weeks but were not released until Tuesday evening because of "investigative concerns." He would not elaborate.

Bradshaw called it "odd" that the government would release the information just about two weeks before a change-of-venue hearing, scheduled for the week of Dec. 17.

Courtney's Pharmacy in Merriam specialized in medications to treat infertility. Progesterone is a steroid hormone secreted by the female reproductive system.

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