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Archive for Friday, December 7, 2001

Fertility drugs now included in dilution probe

FBI expands probe of KC pharmacist beyond chemotherapy prescriptions

December 7, 2001

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— The FBI is expanding its drug-dilution investigation at a Kansas pharmacy because the latest drug alleged to be weakened is so different from those found earlier, spokesman Jeff Lanza said.

Pharmacist Robert R. Courtney is charged with diluting the cancer drugs Gemzar and Taxol at his Research Medical Tower Pharmacy in Kansas City, Mo. Tests released Tuesday showed two samples of the fertility drug progesterone from his Merriam pharmacy had been watered down, the FBI said.

"Anything available for testing that could have been altered, we're interested in having tests taken on," Lanza said.

Lanza would not say how many new samples agents have taken from Courtney's Kansas pharmacy. He said agents were still working through a list of 250 new callers to the FBI's hotline.

He has said the federal Food and Drug Administration, which tested the progesterone, is already testing other drugs taken from the Kansas store, called Courtney's Pharmacy. Test results are pending on some drugs taken from the Missouri store as well.

Courtney has been held without bond since his arrest on Aug. 15. He was later indicted on 20 federal counts of tampering, adulterating and misbranding the chemotherapy drugs that a Kansas City physician prescribed for her patients.

He has pleaded innocent and is scheduled to go to trial in March.

No one has been charged or taken into custody for the latest alleged dilutions. The FBI is investigating whether someone besides Courtney allegedly weakened those medications because the millionaire druggist spent little time at the Kansas store, Lanza said.

Progesterone is a relatively inexpensive drug, Lanza said, while Gemzar and Taxol are both expensive.

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.

Investigators have also turned up suspicious or low-potency samples of Paraplatin, Platinol, Procrit, Neupogen, Roferon and Zofran, according to court records released last week.

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