August 23, 2001

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if that medicine you were taking to hopefully cure your disease was really only water? That obviously is a scary question but it is one being faced by hundreds of cancer patients in the Kansas City area following the arrest of a pharmacist by the FBI. Robert Courtney, owner and operator of the Research Medical Tower Pharmacy in Kansas City is facing numerous felony charges after he reportedly was selling diluted prescriptions of chemotherapy drugs.

The pharmacist was investigated by the FBI and FDA following reports from a drug salesman about the possible problem. Samples of the prescriptions for Gemzar and Taxol, two cancer drugs, were taken from the office and found to contain anywhere from 40 percent to just one percent of the true drug.

While the investigation has focused on just two drugs, I would have to believe that if I had bought even a bottle of vitamins from this shop that I would be reevaluating my health. If the guy is willing to threaten the lives of chemotherapy patients to save a buck what is to say he didn't substitute jelly beans for your heart pills or make some other cost-saving deception?

The obvious motive behind the crime is money as a true prescription of the drugs cost more than $1,000, while the good pharmacist was allegedly cutting the corners and dispensing only a few hundred dollars worth of the drug, making hundreds of dollars on each unsuspecting victim/patient. And we thought doing away with the Christmas bonuses was a low-down way to save a buck, but this has to take the cake.

I've heard of jewelry makers switching glass gems in for real ones, repairmen faking expensive problems in your car, home or office, or the ever popular driveway and lightning rod shady deals of rural Missouri, but none of these financial scams plays with the health of those involved. What makes this pharmacist any different than a paid hit man? He is taking money and putting these patients at immediate risk for their life.

Of course this is all pre-trial publicity and we are all innocent until proven guilty, but once the trial is over, if pharmacist Courtney is found guilty I have a suggestion for the sentencing hearing. Make the man take his own medicine. While he is in prison for the rest of his life give him everything from watered-down painkillers and useless nasty-tasting cough syrup all the way down to the same life stealing prescriptions he sold. If you could inject him with the same cancers that his mistreated customers have, I wonder if he would like to take one percent of the medicine he needs to possibly beat the disease?

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