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Registered Nurse Pleads Guilty to Tampering with Patients’ Pain Medication

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Department of Justice
Western District of Michigan 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, May 26, 2022

GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN – U.S. Attorney Mark Totten announced today that Alison Renee Marshall, 45, of Sturgis, Michigan, pled guilty in the United States District Court in Lansing, Michigan, to a charge of tampering with a consumer product, specifically vials of liquid fentanyl at the hospital where she worked.  

According to court documents, Marshall, a registered nurse who previously was employed in the interventional radiology unit of a hospital in Kalamazoo, Michigan, removed liquid fentanyl and replaced it with saline solution in July and August of 2020. On August 20, 2020, another nurse working in the interventional radiology unit recognized that a 72-year-old cancer patient undergoing a percutaneous chest tube placement procedure did not receive the expected pain relief from the liquid fentanyl that was administered at the outset of the procedure. A subsequent investigation by the hospital’s staff pharmacist revealed that several vials of fentanyl in the unit’s automated medication dispensing machines had caps that appeared glued back on the vials.  Hospital records revealed that Marshall checked out doses of fentanyl for patients 14 times from in July and August of 2020 but then canceled the transactions and purportedly returned the fentanyl back into the interventional radiology unit’s inventory. FDA laboratory examination of the vials with the glued caps revealed needle punctures consistent with tampering, and laboratory testing demonstrated that the vials were substantially diluted, containing 3% or less of the amount of reported fentanyl.

On August 24, 2020, Marshall met with hospital representatives and admitted diverting fentanyl for her own use by removing vials of injectable fentanyl from the medication dispensing machines, extracting the fentanyl using syringes, replacing the medication with saline, gluing the plastic tampering caps back onto the vials, and returning the vials back into the unit’s medication dispensing machines. At a plea hearing before the United States District Judge Hala Y. Jarbou, Marshall acknowledged that by removing the fentanyl, refilling the vials with saline solution, and returning the vials to the hospital inventory, she acted with reckless disregard that a patient would be placed in danger of death or bodily injury and exhibited extreme indifference to such risk.

U.S. Attorney Mark Totten stated, “Patients entering a hospital must have confidence they will receive the treatment they are promised.” He continued, “Marshall violated that trust and exposed vulnerable patients to possible infection and unnecessary pain and suffering. Today’s guilty plea brings us one step closer to accountability and sends a message to other would-be offenders that we will not sit back when they violate patients’ trust.”  

“Patients rely on the knowledge that they will receive FDA-approved medications to manage their pain,” said Special Agent in Charge Lynda M. Burdelik, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations, Chicago Field Office. “We will continue to pursue and bring to justice healthcare professionals who jeopardize patients’ health by tampering with their pain medications.”

Marshall’s sentencing is scheduled for September 21, 2022.  Marshall faces a maximum of 10 years in federal prison. The Court will determine the sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.  

This case was investigated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations.     

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Topic(s): 
Prescription Drugs

Component(s): 
USAO - Michigan, Western

 
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