Pharmacist's Diluting Sends FBI Searching

KANSAS CITY, Mo-The FBI has set up a hotline to answer questions for any person who may have received chemotherapy treatment from Courtney's Research Medical Tower Pharmacy in Kansas City.

Robert R. Courtney surrendered yesterday to the FBI after it was discovered he had been diluting chemotherapy drugs. The motive is not known to date, but pharmaceutical representatives say the move, which diluted the drugs Taxol and Gemzar to less than 1% of the original ordered dose in some cases, could have saved the pharmacy hundreds of dollars. For example, an order of Gemzar, which is used to treat pancreatic cancer and some types of lung cancer, is sold for $1,021 per order. By the amount being allegedly provided, the pharmacy would have spent $242 per order.

Taxol is a second-line drug used to treat advanced ovarian or breast cancer. It is also used to treat AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma and lung cancer.

Federal investigators were notified after a representative from Eli Lilly and Co., the maker of Gemzar, noticed a discrepancy between the amount of the drug the pharmacy was ordering and the amount it was billing local doctors.

In the meantime, investigators are trying to locate patients who may have received the wrong dose of the drugs. Although there is little evidence that a lower dosage could hurt patients, the drug would not fight cancer as efficiently. The hotline has received more than 150 calls.

Courtney, who has been held without bond for felony misbranding and adulteration of a drug, is worth more than $10 million in stock and property. They court said the man was a flight risk.

If convicted, he could service three years in prison without parole and pay a $250,000 fine.

There was no word on how many patients may have been affected by the dilution.

Information from www.nytimes.com

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