Doctor Who Took Her Patients' Morphine for Herself Sentenced under Anti-Tampering Law

Article excerpt

A Minnesota doctor was sentenced to more than five years in prison and stripped of her medical license for drug tampering that endangered the lives of her critical-care patients. She stole their intravenous (IV) morphine to feed her own addiction and then replaced the missing doses with a saline solution.

Nancy Moyer, 36, of Hibbing, Minn., was convicted in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota in 1997 of four counts of consumer product tampering and six counts of obtaining a controlled substance through fraud. The internist was sentenced March 27, 1998, to five years and 10 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and 250 hours of community service. The state medical board revoked Moyer's license to practice medicine.

She is appealing her conviction.

According to Kathleen Martin-Weis, case agent with FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI), Moyer's offenses were unusual for drug pilfering because most related offenses involve stealing drugs in prefilled syringes, not IV bags.

Staff members in the critical-care unit at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park, Minn., where Moyer was serving a fellowship, became suspicious in January 1997 after they noticed that two IV pumps containing bags originally filled with morphine were leaking. Two days later they found another leaky bag. Because Moyer had been questioned in an earlier in-hospital, narcotics-related incident, in which she denied involvement, and because all the leaking bags had been connected to her patients, Moyer became a prime suspect. Hospital security was alerted to the suspicions, prompting a hospital investigation.

The hospital called in the FBI to investigate, but FBI agents discerned from preliminary findings that Moyer's actions fell under the Federal Anti-Tampering Act, which FDA has authority to enforce.

According to OCI's Martin-Weis, FDA's burden was to prove that Moyer tampered with the IV bags and, in doing so, acted with reckless disregard for her patients and showed extreme indifference to the danger she placed them in. …