PHARMACIST charged with diluting cancer drugs deemed flight risk, ordered held without bond
Tuesday, August 21st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A millionaire pharmacist charged with diluting cancer drugs will be held without bond while he awaits trial because a federal judge worries he might try to flee the country.
U.S. Magistrate Robert Larsen said Monday that pharmacist Robert Courtney was a flight risk, particularly because of his more than $10 million in assets.
Courtney, 48, has allegedly acknowledged diluting chemotherapy medications for at least 30 to 35 patients, and authorities say the number could be higher.
The pharmacist is charged with a single count of dispensing misbranded and adulterated chemotherapy drugs. If convicted, he faces three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. His attorney, Jean Paul Bradshaw II, has said he would plead innocent.
Courtney has admitted diluting the expensive drugs ``out of greed,'' according to prosecutors. Authorities claim diluting the drugs would have saved him hundreds of dollars per dose.
The FBI has raised the possibility of homicide charges if the dilutions are linked to any deaths.
At a detention hearing in a packed courtroom, Larsen asked FBI Special Agent David E. Parker how many patients who allegedly received diluted drugs have died.
``At least one for sure,'' said Parker, who did not provide details.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gene Porter said the FBI is investigating claims that Courtney tried to move $2 million to an account in the Cayman Islands, and that he looked into buying a condominium on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Bradshaw said his client wasn't preparing to flee when he traveled to St. Croix three weeks ago. Bradshaw waved Courtney's passport in the air and told Larsen he was surrendering it on the spot.
He also said Courtney would surrender his pharmaceutical licenses from Missouri and Kansas and his federal drug permit.
FBI investigators are still sifting through medical records and trying to contact potential victims. More than 1,100 people have called an FBI hot line set up to locate victims.
Authorities say tests on intravenous drug bags mixed at Courtney's Research Medical Tower Pharmacy showed they contained between 39 percent and less than 1 percent of the amount of the drugs that had been prescribed. Prosecutors say Courtney reduced the strength of the chemotherapy drugs Gemzar, Taxol, Paraplatin and Platinol.
Larsen's ruling came after Courtney's wife and father talked about Courtney's involvement in church and devotion to his five children and stepchildren.
``The only estimation I can give of my son, Robert Ray, is that he is an ideal son in every sense of the word,'' said Courtney's father, Robert L. Courtney, a retired Assemblies of God minister.