New Hampshire nurses lose their licenses, face federal charges for replacing fentanyl with saline.
Two nurses in the Newbury and Northfield areas of New Hampshire have been charged for their involvement in a dangerous narcotics diversion scheme, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Both women have specific crimes they will be tried for in a federal setting and have been stripped of their current and future abilities to perform nursing duties.
The first nurse, Robin Nicols, is 63 years old and is of the Newbury area. She is charged on two counts. Count one is tampering with consumer products and the other is tied to obtaining a controlled drug by misrepresentation, as defined by law. Both of these activities are banned due to their potential to cause public harm. The second nurse, Lisa Richardson, 47 years old, from Northfield. She is being indicted on the same counts and will stand trial alongside Nicols.
Despite their identical charges and court dates, Nicols and Richardson did not act in tandem. Nicols, while employed at Catholic Medical Center, a nonprofit acute-care hospital and regional health system based in Manchester, New Hampshire, knowingly removed an amount of liquid fentanyl from a patient in the operating room and replaced it with saline to cover her tracks. Fentanyl is a key narcotic painkiller drug that is highly dangerous if used unsupervised and is of course illegal to take from a patient. Doing so could have also caused harm to the patient and eliminated the patient’s pain relief.
Richardson, meanwhile, was working at Concord Hospital when she, like Nicols, removed fentanyl from a patient in the intensive care unit (ICU). She utilized the patients IV to complete the act and replace it with saline knowing that she needed to cover up what she had done.
Saline can act only as a temporary cover for replacing a powerful narcotic like fentanyl, and both nurses were ultimately caught by their respective employers. Their crimes can result in a sentence of up to a decade behind bars. Once released, if they are able to reinstate their nursing licenses, they may be required to stay under supervision for up to three years. In addition, both nurses face a potential $250,000 fine.
Their particular sentences will remain unknown until they have been tried in front of a federal court, but statutes are in place and previous cases involving similar crimes will guide the current litigation. While all of the presented statements above are allegations at this point, there is sufficient evidence for the cases to come to court and convictions are likely.
There is an ongoing issue with narcotics diversion across all medical professions in the United States. Cases like these are startling to hear but help pave the way for proper regulations and statutes to be in place going forward to protect the integrity of hospital systems, medical personnel, and their patients. The aforementioned cases will be tried by the Assistant U.S. attorney Geoffrey Ward. The investigations will be led by the FDA Official of Criminal Investigations and the Drug Enforcement Administration.