Magazine article Drug Topics

Compounding Case Leads to R.Ph. Suicide

Magazine article Drug Topics

Compounding Case Leads to R.Ph. Suicide

Article excerpt

Jamey Phillip Sheets, 32, apparently could not accept the punishment meted out by the California pharmacy board for a fatal outbreak of meningitis from a drug compounded in the pharmacy he co-owned. A looming license suspension, five years on probation, and a hefty fine were more than the despondent pharmacist could bear. Late last month, he attached 500 mg of fentanyl patches to his neck and chest and lay down to die.

Sheets, 32, was found dead by his wife, Michelle, when she returned with their two young sons to their home in Pleasant Hill. She had gone ahead with a planned visit with her mother in Oceanside even though he had backed out at the last minute. Although suicide by drug overdose is suspected, the official cause of death awaits results of toxicology tests.

The downward spiral that ended in Sheets' suicide began last May when a meningitis outbreak was traced to betamethasone compounded in a pharmacy he coowned. The contaminated drug mixed in Doc's Pharmacy in Walnut Creek was blamed for three deaths and 13 hospitalizations.

The meningitis outbreak triggered a heavy media barrage and public outrage aimed at the pharmacy and the practice of compounding. And that put the pharmacy board under heavy pressure to discipline those responsible for the contamination.

Majority owner and pharmacist-- in-charge at Doc's Pharmacy, Bob Horwitz, immediately surrendered his license and the pharmacy's license when the media firestorm about the outbreak hit. He later sold the pharmacy, and the pharmacy board revoked his license for one year.

Although Sheets owned a minority stake of 49% of the pharmacy and was not present when the tainted drug was compounded, the pharmacy board accepted the sanctions recommended by an administrative law judge after a week-long hearing. The discipline included a 90-day license suspension, five years on probation, and a $37,159 fine to pay for the cost of the investigation and prosecution of the case.

Patricia Harris, executive officer of the California pharmacy board, did not respond to requests for comment.

Even before the disciplinary hearing last fall, Sheets had left Doc's Pharmacy to work at a Safeway pharmacy, said John Martin, the Walnut Creek attorney who represented him before the judge. …

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