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Robert Courtney

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Residence  Incarcerated
Name  Robert Courtney
Occupation  Former pharmacist
Role  Pharmacist
Religion  Assembly of God
Spouse  Laura Courtney
Children  5

Robert Courtney cbsnews1cbsistaticcomhubir20010816cbeac35

Full Name  Robert Ray Courtney
Born  September 15, 1952 (age 63) (1952-09-15) Hays, Kansas, USA
Known for  Convictions for pharmaceutical fraud

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Robert Ray Courtney (born September 15, 1952) is an American former pharmacist from Kansas City, Missouri. In 2002 he pleaded guilty to intentionally diluting several doses of chemotherapy drugs and sentenced to federal prison. He is currently serving his sentence at Big Spring Federal Correctional Institution in Big Spring, Texas.


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Early life and education

Courtney was born in Hays, Kansas. His father was a traveling minister based in Scott City, and described Courtney as an "ideal son." He played the trombone at Wichita South High School. Courtney graduated from the School of Pharmacy at University of Missouri–Kansas City in 1975.

Adult life

In 1986, Courtney became the owner of Research Medical Tower Pharmacy in Kansas City, where he had worked for some time. He primarily mixed intravenous drugs. Before his arrest, Courtney served as a deacon at Northland Cathedral, an Assemblies of God megachurch in Kansas City.

In 1992, he and his first wife divorced; Courtney retained custody of their two daughters. His second marriage lasted four or five days and was later annulled. In 1994 his third wife, Laura Courtney, gave birth to twins. In August 2001, two months before his arrest, Courtney held total assets worth $18.7 million.

Dilution fraud

In 1990, Courtney began purchasing pharmaceuticals on the gray market and using them to fill prescriptions at his pharmacy. In time he began diluting prescriptions to increase profits. Both practices were illegal.

In 1998, an Eli Lilly sales representative noticed Courtney was selling three times the amount of the cancer drug Gemzar that he'd bought. Lilly initiated an internal investigation but found no evidence of illegality and closed the investigation without further action.

In 2001, the same Eli Lilly sales representative mentioned the matter to a nurse who worked for Verda Hunter, an oncologist in Courtney's building who was also one of Courtney's customers.Hunter noticed that many of her patients were only suffering mild side effects, and their condition didn't seem to be improving. She had medication that had been supplied by Courtney tested. That test showed that the sample contained less than one-third of the drug prescribed. Hunter immediately notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Federal investigators initially didn't believe that a pharmacist would do something so egregious. However, when Hunter showed them the test results, they realized that she was telling the truth. Hunter submitted seven additional samples for testing by the Food and Drug Administration's forensic chemistry lab. Tests on those samples revealed that they contained as little as 15 percent of the prescribed dosage, and at most only half of it. They immediately knew that they had to move quickly. While health care fraud cases normally take years to build, the investigators knew they didn't have that long.

Investigators believed that he took a base dose of chemotherapy drugs and split it between three prescriptions, then sold them to oncologists for the same price as a full dose. He took advantage of the fact that oncologists are usually concerned mainly with chemotherapy's effects on the body, not the amount of the dose.

Investigators persuaded Hunter to help them in a sting operation. Hunter gave Courtney several prescriptions for fictitious patients. After Courtney mixed the drugs and sent them to Hunter's office, federal agents had them tested. The samples contained less than half of the prescribed dosage, and in some cases contained less than one percent of the active drug. On August 13, 2001; federal agents raided Research Medical Tower Pharmacy. A day later, Courtney was charged with one count of adulterating and misbranding medication. Investigators reported that before turning himself in, Courtney gave $80,000 in cash, and more than 100 doses of Prozac to his wife.

Faced with the evidence, Courtney gave investigators a list of three medications that he diluted, and a list of 34 affected patients. He claimed to have only started diluting drugs a few months ago, a claim no one believed. He openly admitted he did it to pay off a $1 million donation to his church's building fund. On August 23, 2001; Courtney was indicted on 20 counts of tampering with consumer products and adulterating and misbranding drugs. Many patients and survivors wanted him charged with murder, but federal prosecutors believed a murder charge would be hard to prove since many patients were suffering from late-stage cancer.

Courtney also was named as defendant in approximately 300 suits for fraud and wrongful death. In one case a jury awarded the plaintiff, Georgia Hayes, a judgment in the amount of $2.2 billion. Although Hayes knew she would likely never see that money because his assets had been frozen, she wanted to send a message that this type of deceit was not worth the cost.

Eli Lilly and Bristol Myers-Squibb were named in several of the civil suits. Eli Lilly ultimately settled the suits for $48 million, while Bristol Myers-Squibb paid $24 million.

Facing the prospect of life in prison if convicted at trial, on February 20, 2002, Courtney pleaded guilty to 20 federal counts of tampering and adulterating the chemotherapy drugs Taxol and Gemzar. He also acknowledged that he and his corporation, Courtney Pharmacy Inc., had weakened drugs, conspired to traffic in stolen drugs and caused the filing of false Medicare claims. According to law enforcement estimates, as well as his own confession, from 1992 to 2001 Courtney diluted 98,000 prescriptions from 400 doctors, which were given to 4,200 patients. Courtney admitted to diluting 72 different kinds of drugs. Besides chemotherapy treatments, he admitted diluting medications for diabetes and AIDS patients, as well as fertility treatments. On December 5, 2002, Courtney was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison.

In 2008, an episode of American Greed, entitled "Deadly ℞ For Greed", recounted Courtney's crimes, trial and conviction.

Courtney, Federal Bureau of Prisons inmate number 14536-045, is currently serving his sentence at FCI Big Spring, after starting his sentence at Gilmer Federal Correctional Institution near Glenville, West Virginia. His earliest possible release date is November 20, 2027--when he will be 75 years old.


Robert Courtney Wikipedia