KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Investigators were trying to locate cancer patients who may have received improper dosages of chemotherapy drugs because of a pharmacist's alleged plot to save money.
Robert R. Courtney, 48, is accused of dispensing two drugs — Taxol and Gemzar — in amounts that were a fraction of what had been prescribed.
Federal authorities said some intravenous drug bags mixed at Courtney's pharmacy contained between 39 percent and less than 1 percent of the dose ordered by doctors.
The dilution would have saved about $780 for one order of the drugs, according to the U.S. attorney's office.
"I don't know of any other case that we've had like that," Kevin Kinkade, executive director of the Missouri State Pharmacy Board said.
It was not immediately known how many patients were affected.
"There could literally be hundreds of patients who received improper dosages," FBI spokesman Jeff Lanza said Tuesday.
Courtney was expected to surrender to the FBI Wednesday on a single felony count of misbranding and adulteration of a drug, according to his attorney, Jean Paul Bradshaw.
Federal agents seized records from Courtney's Research Medical Tower Pharmacy on Monday out of a concern for public health, Lanza said
"We don't have just one instance," Lanza said. "Our records indicate there were many instances over a period of time."
Chris Whitley, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Kansas City, said finding and notifying affected patients is a top priority, and the FBI established a hot line for people seeking information. More than 100 calls were made to the hot line as of 7 a.m. Wednesday.
Courtney's pharmacy license was placed on probation for one year beginning in July 1992 for failing to renew the license and practicing without a license, said Kinkade.
A worker at the pharmacy said Wednesday that Courtney was not available and that no one else there could comment. A woman who answered a phone listed in Courtney's name said he was not home.
According to the U.S. attorney's office, a sales representative for Eli Lilly and Co., which makes Gemzar, first found a discrepancy between the amount of Gemzar the pharmacy ordered and the amount it billed an unidentified Kansas City-area doctor.
Taxol was first approved in 1992 as a second-line therapy for advanced ovarian or breast cancer. It is also used against AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma and lung cancer. Gemzar is used to treat pancreatic cancer and some types of lung cancer.