KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A pharmacist who federal prosecutors say admitted cutting the potency of chemotherapy drugs "out of greed" will plead innocent to the charge, his lawyer said Friday.
"He's pleading not guilty to the charges," said Jean Paul Bradshaw II, a former U.S. attorney who is representing pharmacist Robert Courtney, 48.
Bradshaw said he couldn't comment on the substance of Friday's court filing in which prosecutors say Courtney admitted watering down drugs he sold for treating cancer patients.
But he did say the new document limits the extent of the crime Courtney is accused of committing.
"The scope of the concerns that were expressed earlier this week were greatly reduced (in the prosecutors' report), from a suggestion that there were hundreds of people covering a multi-year time span, to 30 to 35 patients over a much shorter period of time," Bradshaw said.
Bradshaw said he continues to hope that Courtney would be released on bond after a detention hearing on Monday. Earlier this week, U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert E. Larsen, citing a risk that the millionaire pharmacist would flee, ordered him held without bond pending the hearing.
Courtney is being held in solitary confinement in an area jail "for his own protection," Bradshaw said.
The report filed by federal prosecutors Friday said Courtney told investigators he diluted potentially lifesaving chemotherapy treatments "out of greed."
The filing is full of revelations about Courtney's contact with the FBI this week, including his alleged confession.
"The defendant stated that he diluted the strength of the chemotherapy drugs out of greed and in order to make more money," the court papers said.
Courtney was charged Tuesday with a single federal charge of misbranding and adulteration of a drug.
The FBI says samples tested after being prepared by Courtney's Research Medical Tower Pharmacy contained between 39 percent and less than 1 percent of the expensive drugs.
Courtney also admitted diluting the chemotherapy drugs Paraplatin and Platinol, according to the filing. Authorities believe the same people got all four diluted drugs, meaning the revelation about Paraplatin and Platinol wouldn't affect a new group of patients.
Federal agents first interviewed Courtney on Monday, the same day they searched his Research Medical Tower Pharmacy. Courtney told them he didn't know how the mixture of drugs and saline in intravenous drug bags he had prepared could have been so weak.
Then he was charged. On Wednesday, Courtney turned himself in, and -- in his attorney's presence -- began telling a different story to federal investigators, according to the filing.
"During this interview the defendant admitted that the allegations in the pending complaint are true," the filing stated. "The defendant admitted that beginning in November of 2000, and intensifying in March through May of 2001, he knowingly reduced the potency/strength/concentration of Gemzar and Taxol in IV drug bags ordered by one specific physician."
The filing stated Courtney said the dilutions were limited to between 30 and 35 patients of one physician. Prosecutors, however, said they were trying to determine the accuracy of that, and officials have repeatedly said hundreds of patients could be affected.
Courtney told the federal agents that beginning in November he provided Gemzar and Taxol mixtures at about half the strength requested by doctors, then reduced that to 30 to 40 percent. Testing requested by a doctor and investigators found one sample with less than 1 percent of the prescribed drug. Courtney told investigators he had meant to mix that treatment at 30 to 40 percent, too.
Courtney also claimed he acted alone -- without the help of others who worked for him or the doctor who ordered the chemotherapy treatments.
Federal authorities have said they expect to call a grand jury to consider indicting Courtney.
The allegations have prompted doctors who used Courtney's chemotherapy mixes to scour their records to find patients who got the treatments.
The drugs were distributed directly to doctors by Courtney's pharmacy in Kansas City, and authorities say there's no reason to worry about Gemzar and Taxol handled by other pharmacies.
The alleged dilution was first noticed by a sales representative for Gemzar maker Eli Lilly and Co., who found a discrepancy between the amount of Gemzar the pharmacy ordered and the amount it billed a doctor later identified as Verda Hunter. Tests ordered by Hunter and federal authorities allegedly showed greatly reduced concentrations of the drugs.