Kelsey Mulvey, 27, used her position as a nurse to steal opioids meant for cancer patients.
Kelsey Mulvey, 27, of Grand Island, a registered nurse at a major cancer center in New York, has been charged with stealing opioids meant for cancer patients by draining syringes and refilling them with tap water. “This may have led to an outbreak of water-borne infection among some patients being treated for pain,” according to allegations in a federal criminal complaint that followed. Mulvey stands accused of “illegally obtaining controlled substances by fraud, tampering, and violations of patient privacy.” The related charges carry a maximum penalty of ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Mulvey worked full-time at the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo from 2016 to 2018. She was pregnant for much of 2017. The alleged thefts took place from February to June 2018. Authorities say Mulvey “stole the pain drugs from Pyxis machines,” which are automated dispensing cabinets located in medication rooms. She took “methadone, oxycodone, lorazepam, and hydromorphone (Dilaudid),” investigators said, and the criminal complaint adds that Mulvey’s theft was motivated by addiction to the prescription medications rather than by selling them for profit.
The defendant is accused of failing to properly administer pain medication to 81 cancer patients. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
“Patients deserve to have confidence that they are receiving the proper treatment from those entrusted with providing their medical care,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Jeffrey J. Ebersole, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations, New York Field Office. “As part of the FDA’s comprehensive work to address the opioid epidemic, we will continue to hold medical personnel accountable when they take advantage of their unique position and tamper with drugs needed by their patients, especially when such tampering could cause unnecessary pain and suffering.”
“This is not the first time we have investigated and charged a healthcare professional who suffers from addiction,” said Gary Loeffert of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Buffalo.
“We will continue to hold medical personnel accountable when they take advantage of their unique position and tamper with drugs needed by their patients, especially when such tampering could cause unnecessary pain and suffering,” added Jeffrey Ebersole of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations, New York Field Office.
The criminal complaint and specific charges filed against Mulvey come eight months after Roswell Park first publicly disclosed that someone had been stealing opoids and the tampering caused subsequent patient infections. At that time, Boris Kuvshinoff, MD, CMO at Roswell, announced, “We believe that narcotic was removed from syringes and replaced with water by a single individual who is no longer employed at Roswell Park. The incidents happened earlier this year.”
Mulvey was placed on administrative leave on June 28, 2018 “after a large number of transactions associated with the defendant in the Pyxis system were identified as ‘cancelled removed,’ indicating that the Pyxis machine drawer for the selected medication was accessed but the transactions were cancelled,” according to investigators.
“The impact of the opioid crisis in our region has wide-reaching ramifications,” Kuvshinoff said. “Because this issue, which was reported by Roswell Park to local, state and federal authorities, is under active investigation, we cannot comment further.”
Patients received antibiotics at that time, and the hospital notified all affected patients. There were no patient deaths resulting from the swapping.
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