Prison to release convicted pharmacist

A Kansas City pharmacist convicted of diluting prescription medications will be released to a halfway house in June. Robert Courtney was sentenced in 2002 to a maximum 30 years. He has been serving the sentence at a federal prison in Littleton, Colo. 

News

April 16, 2024 - 2:55 PM

A Kansas City pharmacist convicted of diluting prescription medications will be released to a halfway house in June, much to the dismay of families who allege he is responsible for the deaths of their loved ones, according to the Kansas City Star.

Robert Courtney was sentenced in 2002 to a maximum 30 years. He has been serving the sentence at a federal prison in Littleton, Colo. 

Now 71, Courtney was convicted of diluting patients’ medications to treat cancer, AIDS and more. Authorities estimated that his scheme could have touched 4,200 patients, the Star reported.

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.

Investigators with the FBI and FDA found that Courtney would take a base dose of chemotherapy drugs and split it between three prescriptions, then sell them to oncologists for the same price as a full dose, turning a significant profit. 

On Aug. 13, 2001, federal agents raided Courtney’s business, Research Medical Tower Pharmacy, where he admitted to the scheme he’d been conducting for essentially his entire career. At the time of his arrest he had assets of almost $19 million.

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

Attorney Michael Ketchmark, who represented 275 families in wrongful death lawsuits against Courtney, said in a phone interview Monday with Kansas City Star reporter Katie Moore that his phone “has been lit up all day with Robert Courtney’s victims.”

“The raw pain and emotion is overwhelming,” he said.

Ketchmark noted that Courtney has not been charged by the state for murder, which does not have a statute of limitations. “In my opinion, he is one of the most prolific serial killers,” Ketchmark said. “He diluted chemotherapy drugs that people need when they’re fighting for their life and he took away their hope and he took away the life of his victims.”

The Star reported that Ketchmark called on the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office to bring charges.

“It’s our hope that that will happen. There’s plenty of justice still to be delivered to this man. He should never walk free again.”

Courtney is scheduled to remain at the halfway house in Springfield, Mo., until May 2026, when he will be released.

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