Archive for Monday, September 3, 2001

FBI conducts 2nd raid on pharmacy

Agents search for additional evidence in KC diluted chemotherapy case

September 3, 2001

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— Federal agents conducted another raid on a pharmacy owned by Robert R. Courtney, the pharmacist charged with diluting chemotherapy drugs for cancer patients.

The four-hour raid on Saturday involved about two dozen agents from the FBI and the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Criminal Investigations, FBI spokesman Jeff Lanza said.

The agents raided Courtney's Research Medical Tower Pharmacy about noon, just as it was closing. Lanza declined to say what was found but said the search warrant, its supporting affidavit and a list of the confiscated material should be returned to the federal courts on Tuesday.

Lanza said that the new search warrant, which was issued Friday, was not based on the affidavit used to secure the warrant for the first search of the pharmacy on Aug. 13.

"We're not going back looking for stuff we missed in a previous search," he said.

Courtney is charged with 20 felony counts of tampering, misbranding and adulterating cancer medications he provided to Kansas City oncologist Verda Hunter.

He has pleaded innocent to the charges in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, though Courtney's lawyer has said his client has cooperated with investigators.

Courtney has been jailed without bond while awaiting trial. He was not at the search of his business, Lanza said.

Federal authorities said last week that they were exploring whether medications other than the cancer drugs Gemzar and Taxol might have been diluted. Samples of other medications were sent to an FDA forensic laboratory in Cincinnati for testing.

Lanza declined to speak about the test results or whether they prompted the latest search of Courtney's pharmacy.

In the Aug. 13 search agents seized Taxol, Gemzar, prescriptions and pharmacy logs going back to 1995, court records showed.

That search was prompted by information from Hunter and test results on Gemzar and Taxol that investigators obtained from Courtney in a sting operation.

In federal court records, authorities have alleged that Courtney acknowledged diluting the expensive drugs from November 2000 to May 2001 to cover a pending $600,000 tax bill.

A federal grand jury formally indicted Courtney on Aug. 23.

In a separate civil action, Courtney has agreed to sell his business, which also operates a pharmacy in Merriam, and give up his pharmacy licenses. A federal judge also froze at least $8.5 million in Courtney's investment assets and gave investigators control of two bank safe deposit boxes.

The charges have prompted more than two dozen civil lawsuits so far, many alleging that Courtney was liable for the wrongful deaths of cancer patients who received diluted medications.

Several people have also sued Eli Lilly and Co., maker of Gemzar, alleging that it suspected the dilutions early last year but did not report them. Lilly has denied the charge.

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