Early prison release denied for former KC pharmacist who diluted cancer drugs

KMBZ News Staff
September 02, 2020 - 11:03 am
A headshot of Robert Courtney overlaid against a background of the exterior of Research Medical Center



Kansas City, MO -  A judge has rejected an early release request by former Kansas City pharmacist Robert Courtney who is serving a prison sentence for his scheme in diluting thousands of prescriptions for seriously ill patients to boost his profits.

Judge Ortrie Smith denied Courtney's plea for compassion release for fear he could contract COVID-19 in prison.

Listen Live Now on 98.1 KMBZ FM

Courtney, 67, said his health problems, including high blood pressure and previous strokes and heart attacks, make him vulnerable to contracting the disease.

The judge said in his order that Courtney is in a prison with few virus cases and that his crimes were “vastly different” from other defendants who have been granted compassion release.

According to DOJ documents, Courtney's release from custody date is May 2, 2027.


In July, due the coronavirus pandemic, the US Attorney General had directed federal prisons to place inmates with a minimal risk of recidivism on home confinement. 

A plan to release Courtney to a familiy member's home in Trimble, Missouri (near Smithville) for the remainder of his prison sentence unleashed outcries from the general public.

The Missouri governor, as well as members of Missouri's Congressional delegation - Sens. Blunt and Hawley, along with Reps. Cleaver and Graves, wrote to the DOJ to stop the release.  


Courtney was once the owner of the Research Medical Tower Pharmacy located at Research Medical Center in Kansas City, MO. He also owned a pharmacy in Merriam, KS.

He was sentenced in 2002 for a years-long scheme to dilute drugs in order to pocket money from each watered-down dose. 

It shook the medical community, patients and their families, and the pharmaceutical industry.

He admitted in court to intentionally diluting 98,000 prescriptions involving multiple types of drugs, which were administered by some 400 doctors, and given to 4,200 patients.

Many patients and survivors wanted Courtney charged with murder federal prosecutors at the time believed a murder charge would be hard to prove since many patients were suffering from late-stage cancer.

Courtney was named as defendant in approximately 300 suits for fraud and wrongful death.  

Pharmaceutical companies Eli Lilly and Bristol Myers-Squibb were named in several civil suits, with Eli Lilly settling for $48 million, and  Bristol Myers-Squibb paying out $24 million.

Comments ()