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Robert Courtney

Robert Ray Courtney (born 1952 in Hays, Kansas) is a former pharmacist who owned and operated Research Medical Tower Pharmacy in Kansas City, Missouri. Over a period of about 9 years he diluted an estimated 98,000 prescriptions of medications, affecting some 4,200 patients; at least 17 cancer patients died after receiving diluted formulation of chemotherapy from him. He made some $19 million from the fraud. After a sting operation, he was arrested in 2001. He pleaded guilty in federal court in February 2002 and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. The victims obtained a $2.2 billion civil judgement against him.

In 1998 a sales representative for the drug company Eli Lilly had noticed a discrepancy between the amounts of the cancer drug Gemzar bought and sold by Courtney. Eli Lilly initiated an internal investigation, suspecting that the pharmacist was using grey market channels to buy the drug; when no evidence was found, the case was closed. The sales representative mentioned the matter in spring 2001 to an employee of an oncologist who used Courtney's services; the oncologist then had Courtney's drugs tested and notified authorities. (Draper 2003)

In sentencing Courtney to 30 years in prison, the judge went over the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which would have called for up to 22 years. The sentence was upheld on appeal. (Vivian 2004)

The case was significant because it represented the first major instance of drug dilution in the United States, a practice that is very common in developing countries. Drug companies have been accused of being secretive about these cases, in order to avoid scaring away customers.

Courtney's victims filed lawsuits against the drug companies Eli Lilly and Bristol-Myers, alleging that these companies knew or should have known that the pharmacist sold more drugs than he bought. The companies denied liability and did not admit any wrongdoing, but settled 300 lawsuits out of court, paying out some $71 million in compensation. (Cockburn 2005)

See also


  • Robert Draper: "The Toxic Pharmacist." The New York Times, 8 June 2003
  • Robert Cockburn: "Death by Dilution." The American Prospect, 20 December 2005
  • Jesse C. Vivian: "Federal Sentencing Guidelines." U.S. Pharmacist, Vol 29:06, 15 June 2004
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Robert_Courtney". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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