Nurse from Parker Adventist Hospital pleads guilty to stealing fentanyl designated for patients
DENVER – Jessica Sharman, 35, of Arapahoe County, pled guilty yesterday before U.S. District Court Judge Christine M. Arguello to tampering with a consumer product, specifically stealing fentanyl meant for patients from the intensive care unit at Parker Adventist Hospital in Douglas County, announced U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn, DEA Denver Division Special Agent in Charge William McDermott and Food and Drug Administration Office of Criminal Investigations Special Agent in Charge Charles Grinstead. Sharman appeared at the hearing free on bond. She is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Arguello on Sept. 24, 2019. Sharman was first charged by information on May 29, 2019.
According to the stipulated facts contained in the plea agreement, Sharman worked as a nurse for various employers until she began working in the intensive care unit at Parker Adventist Hospital in January 2018. Soon after she started work at Parker Adventist, the defendant used an automated narcotic medication dispensing device known as a Pyxis machine. It dispensed multiple narcotic drugs, including fentanyl. Only authorized users, including nurses, are allowed to use the machine. Access was obtained by using the authorized user’s fingerprint.
On April 20, 2018, a routine audit report of access to and utilization of controlled substances from the Pyxis machine flagged Sharman’s access as “red” for high fentanyl use and waste (the disposal of excess fentanyl following physician-ordered patient administration) for the month of March 2018. The audit for the month of February 2018 flagged Sharman’s access as “yellow,” also for high fentanyl usage. A review of the Pyxis access records showed a high number of “remove-cancel” transactions, indicating that the defendant had accessed controlled substances from a Pyxis machine but then “cancelled” the transaction, returning the drug to the locked machine.
On April 25, 2018, after substantiating the tampering concerns flagged by the audit, Parker Adventist removed all fentanyl from the ICU. On April 26, 2018, Parker Adventist employees interviewed Sharman. Based in part on that interview, it was determined that the defendant was stealing fentanyl from the hospital. She allegedly withdrew the drug from fentanyl cassettes using a sterile syringe and saline flushes. She sometimes replaced the fentanyl she stole with saline, injecting the saline back into the fentanyl cassette and returning the cassette to the Pyxis machine. Following her interview, Sharman tested positive for the use of fentanyl. The hospital terminated Sharman’s employment on April 26, 2018.
Tampering with a consumer product is a felony offense, punishable by up to ten years imprisonment.
This case was investigated by the FDA OCI and the DEA. The defendant is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Anna Edgar.
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