KANSAS CITY, Mo. As a pharmacist battles federal charges that he adulterated cancer drugs, drugmaker Eli Lilly and Co. faces increasing scrutiny amid allegations it missed an opportunity to stop him.
Robert R. Courtney was to appear before a federal judge Monday to plead innocent to charges that he diluted chemotherapy drugs. Federal authorities say the pharmacist has admitted tampering with the medications in an effort to increase profits.
Meanwhile, an attorney for relatives of Courtney's patients said he will file nine lawsuits in state court Monday against Courtney, his pharmacy and Eli Lilly. According to the attorney, Michael Ketchmark, the suits claim the Indianapolis-based drugmaker had reason to believe Courtney was diluting the drug Gemzar but failed to notify authorities.
Courtney, 48, has been charged with eight counts of tampering with consumer products, six counts of adulteration of a drug and six counts of misbranding a drug. He is being held without bond.
The new allegations follow a Kansas City Star report on Sunday that Lilly salesman Darryl Ashley became suspicious of Courtney in early 2000 and at some point told superiors of his concerns.
The newspaper reported that the company acknowledged not telling authorities about Ashley's concerns. The company did its own investigation and determined that problems with Gemzar did not originate in its factory, the paper said.
In May 2001, Ashley told a physician, Dr. Verda Hunter, about a discrepancy he noticed between Courtney's purchases of Gemzar and what he billed Hunter. Hunter ordered tests to determine the drugs' concentrations and notified the FBI, triggering an investigation.