Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said a registered nurse at UPMC Magee-Women’s Hospital stole a patient’s Oxycontin by switching it with the sedative Lunesta.
Shapiro said this caused the woman’s pain to become so intolerable that she kept one of the pills given to her by the nurse and convinced the hospital to test the pill.
The test found that the pill was the sedative Lunesta, a drug which was not prescribed to the patient.
Shapiro’s office announced that the nurse, Tiffany Hafner, 28, of Pittsburgh, faces charges of theft, drug offenses and neglect of a care dependent person. She is also being accused of bringing the Lunesta into the hospital from outside of the hospital.
“As we’ve seen in this crisis, we owe a debt to the thousands of medical professionals in Pennsylvania who are enduring a prolonged crisis to save lives and keep us safe, but when someone abuses that trust we will hold them accountable. This defendant abused her position when she stole medication from a patient and left them in pain. We will not tolerate the neglect of the vulnerable Pennsylvanians,” Shapiro said.
Hafner was released after arraignment and is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on July 23.
Oxycontin is a very valuable narcotic on the black market. It is largely responsible for the opioid crisis currently devastating the United States, a crisis the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said caused 47,600 U.S. overdose deaths in 2017.
Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of Oxycontin, is currently facing thousands of lawsuits which claim they engaged in illegal Oxycontin marketing by covering up the drug’s potential for addiction.
Purdue entered a guilty plea in federal court to understating the addiction risk of Oxycontin. The U.S. Department of Justice said Purdue engaged in the following harmful Oxycontin marketing practices:
• Falsely informing providers of healthcare that it is more difficult to extract oxycodone from Oxycontin tablets for the purpose of intravenous abuse, compared to other medications;
• Falsely informing providers of healthcare that Oxycontin creates fewer chances for addiction when compared to immediate-release opioids;
• Teaching Purdue’s sales supervisors that the blood level effects of Oxycontin are steadier than that of immediate-release opioids, cause less euphoria than immediate-release opioids and cause less potential for abuse than immediate-release opioids;
• Falsely informing providers of healthcare that patients taking Oxycontin wouldn’t develop tolerance to it and could quit it “cold turkey” without withdrawal;
• Falsely informing providers of healthcare that Oxycontin didn’t cause euphoria and had less abuse and addiction potential than immediate-release opioids.