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Ex-pharmacist sentenced to 30 years for tampering with cancer drugs

Robert Courtney
Robert Courtney

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KANSAS CITY, Missouri (CNN) -- A federal judge Thursday sentenced former pharmacist Robert Courtney to the maximum sentence of 30 years in prison without parole for tampering with the cancer drugs of an estimated 4,200 patients.

Judge Ortrie Smith also ordered Courtney to pay restitution of nearly $10.5 million to his victims, plus a fine of $25,000, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Courtney, 50, pleaded guilty earlier this year to 20 felony criminal charges related to the dispensing of diluted chemotherapy drugs.

After that plea, the former druggist told investigators he had diluted more than 60 different drugs at his two pharmacies, beginning around 1992, a statement on the U.S. attorney's Web site said. Courtney said the dilutions affected several doctors' patients.

The prosecutor's office estimates the number of affected patients in Kansas and Missouri to be 4,200.

During Thursday's sentencing hearing, victims and their relatives gave moving testimony on the impact Courtney's actions had in possibly shortening the lives of his unsuspecting patients.

U.S. Attorney Todd Graves, himself a cancer survivor, said, "I know from personal experience that cancer victims are sustained by two things: trust and hope. ... Robert Courtney stole the trust and hope of his victims."

Defense attorneys said they were "disappointed" by the sentence and Courtney's family is "distraught."

The case was tried in federal court because the drugs are federally regulated, an attorney's office spokeswoman said.

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