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Pharmacist who diluted drugs staying in prison

The Associated Press

KANSAS CITY (AP) — A judge has rejected the early release request of a former Kansas City pharmacist serving prison time for a scheme to dilute thousands of prescriptions for seriously ill patients to boost his profits.

The judge on Monday denied 67-year-old Robert Courtney’s plea for compassion release. Courtney has argued he's at risk of contracting COVID-19 in prison.

Courtney said his health problems, including high blood pressure, previous strokes and heart attacks and a bout with cancer, make him vulnerable to contracting the disease.

Judge Ortrie Smith said in his order that Courtney is an a prison with few virus cases and that Courtney’s crimes were “vastly different” from other defendants who have been granted compassion release.

Courtney was sentenced to 30 years in prison in December 2002 and is projected to be released in May 2027. During an investigation that began in mid-2001, Courtney admitted to diluting 72 different medications over nearly a decade. Most were cancer treatment drugs, but others could have been used to treat AIDS, multiple sclerosis, arthritis and other diseases. Authorities estimated his scheme could have touched 4,200 patients.

Courtney’s insurance company agreed to pay $35 million to victims, and two pharmaceutical makers paid $71 million in settlements.