A former veterinarian put patients “in danger” by stealing his veterinary hospital’s supply of an addictive opioid and injecting himself with it in Virginia, federal officials have said.
The man, who was the top surgeon at his animal hospital, would replace portions of the stolen drug with different substances and put it back into the hospital’s inventory for use in surgeries, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. of the Western District of Virginia.
The real purpose of the drug – hydromorphone – was to treat pain in animal patients after surgery, prosecutors said.
Patrick Gries, 54, of Madison Heights, was sentenced to eight months in federal prison on Wednesday, June 22, after pleading guilty to two counts of altering the opioid supply at VCA Amherst Animal Hospital and l be dispensed without a prescription. , the prosecutor’s office said in a press release.
“Neither Dr. Gries nor any surgeon could be sure of the actual dose administered to veterinary patients at the hospital,” the court documents state. As a result, some were potentially exposed to “unnecessary pain and suffering”.
McClatchy News reached out to Gries’ attorney for comment on June 23 and was awaiting a response.
Gries, who ‘lived a largely honest life’, worked at the Amherst County Veterinary Hospital for nearly 30 years and is accused of nurturing ‘his own drug addiction’ by stealing and altering the hydromorphone from July 2020 to March 2021, according to court documents.
He is accused of replacing what he stole with saline or butorphanol, which would mix with hydromorphone, the statement said.
The Food and Drug Administration, Drug Enforcement Agency and state authorities have opened an investigation into Gries and tested some of the alleged “tampered vials,” according to court documents.
“The FDA found that the concentration of hydromorphone in these vials varied wildly,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum.
One vial contained less than 1% hydromorphone after Gries was accused of filling it with something else, court documents show. Another was found to contain 88% of the correct drug.
“By tampering with the vials, Dr. Gries introduced the possibility of impurities that could lead to infection,” prosecutors said.
“To be clear, the government has found no evidence that animal patients have actually suffered harm as a result of Dr. Gries’ conduct. Nevertheless, the risk of adverse health consequences or death to the animals was certainly present. . »
In 2020, Gries developed a painkiller addiction after undergoing surgery and was granted treatment after his actions were discovered at the animal hospital, according to court documents.
“As a result, the history and characteristics of (Gries) weigh in favor of a lighter sentence,” prosecutors wrote.
There is an “epidemic of opioid overdose” in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Opioid overdoses accounted for the majority of drug overdose deaths in 2020 in the United States