Imprisoned drug-diluting pharmacist to be moved to halfway house soon, victims’ lawyer says

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A former Kansas City pharmacist trapped for more than two decades in a profit-enhancing scheme to dilute tens of thousands of prescriptions for seriously ill patients will be moved to a halfway house this summer, an attorney for the victims said Tuesday. .

Victims of Robert Courtney are outraged and are demanding new charges, said Mike Ketchmark, an attorney whose firm has been involved in more than 275 wrongful death lawsuits against Courtney.

Ketchmark said he has received nearly 100 calls since Courtney’s victims began receiving emails from the Justice Department about the plan to transfer the 71-year-old to a facility in Springfield, Missouri, in June. Ketchmark forwarded one of the emails to The Associated Press.

“His victims do not believe that … he should ever walk free again, and (think) that he should be charged with murder under state law, and held accountable,” he said. “And we are calling on the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office to do just that.”

A spokesman for the district attorney’s office, Mike Mansur, said in an email that the office had not yet reviewed the evidence.

Courtney’s attorney, Jeremy Gordon, did not immediately respond to an email.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Ketchmark said, recalling a recent conversation he had with a man in his 80s whose wife was one of the victims. “He cried and cried uncontrollably over the loss of his wife. And he just can’t believe that Robert Courtney might be released from prison.”

During an investigation that began in 2001, Courtney admitted that she had diluted 72 different medications over nearly a decade. Most were cancer drugs, but others could have been used to treat AIDS, multiple sclerosis, arthritis and other diseases. Authorities estimate his plan could have affected 4,200 patients.

Courtney told prosecutors that he diluted the drugs to earn money to pay a $600,000 tax bill and the last third of a $1 million pledge to his church.

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

Don Ledford, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice, referred questions to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The agency said in an email that it does not discuss release plans for specific inmates for safety and security reasons. The website lists Courtney’s final release date as May 2, 2026.

This isn’t the first time plans to move Courtney have been met with resistance. He was scheduled to be released to a halfway house in 2020 as part of a U.S. Department of Justice investigation in response to the pandemic.

At the time, Courtney’s own health was declining. A motion seeking compassionate release noted that he had suffered from high blood pressure, a stroke, three heart attacks, cancer and internal bleeding while in prison.

But Courtney remained locked up after four US lawmakers called on then-Attorney General William Barr to block her early release.