Baptist Health Pharmacist Arrested for Diverting Hydrocodone | Crime

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Baptist Health Pharmacist Arrested for Diverting Hydrocodone
Crime, Health
Baptist Health Pharmacist Arrested for Diverting Hydrocodone

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. -- A local pharmacist is in jail after an investigation at his hospital identified him as a suspect in a drug-diverting case.

According to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office arrest report, 58-year-old Robert Niel Classon has been released from jail after posting $75,000 bond on a charge of trafficking in hydrocodone.
The report indicates employees at Baptist Beaches Hospital became suspicious of activity dating back to late 2011.

Employees within the hospital said they began an investigation on Jan. 6.

The employees determined Hycodan (hydrocodone) syrup was being tampered with, and since the affected doses -- 95 syringes -- were throughout the hospital, they traced the origin to the pharmacy, which is under video surveillance.

According to the arrest report, the employees reviewed the video, which showed Classon -- a pharmacist with a clear license and no disciplinary action, according to the Department of Health -- apparently using his body to shield his actions from the camera, although the employees noted there were still several instances in which they could identify that he was handling Hycodan.

As early as November, hospital employees began noticing several orders of the over-the-counter medicine Robitussin DM, but couldn't locate any of the bottles that had been ordered.

They told JSO they compared the fluids in the tampered syringes and determined the contents, which should have been Hycodan, were actually Robitussin.

On Jan. 13, police located Classon at his home, where he admitted an addiction to hydrocodone and said he had been diverting the medication for personal use.

Because the amount of the drug in a syringe exceeds the 4 grams required to be considered trafficking in hydrocodone, Classon faces a first degree felony charge, according to the report.

Classon has not yet responded to a message left on his phone seeking comment.

Baptist Health Director of Public Relations Cindy Hamilton issued the following response this afternoon:

Patient and employee safety is our priority. Baptist Health takes claims of employee misconduct seriously and responds rapidly to allegations of theft. We have notified and are working closely with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office on the investigation of this case.

Baptist Health discovered this alleged theft through our internal processes that monitor the use and delivery of narcotics and other medications. These processes are in place to help reduce the risk of drug diversion and to protect our patients and employees.

How many patients were impacted?
Overall, patient impact was limited because this medication is not commonly prescribed in a hospital setting and as soon as we found evidence of tampering, we immediately removed all affected product. Individual patient impact would have been minimal as one cough syrup (Hycodan) was replaced with another (Robitussin DM).

Did patients not get proper meds?
We made sure all patients received their proper medication during the investigation.  This was an investigation the hospital initiated, and we are not aware of any issues related to this incident.

How long was the investigation and was it started in house?
A new law requires us to report this type of theft to JSO within 24 hours. So, once we suspected activity, we promptly notified JSO. The investigation itself was quick, and we completed it in a matter of days with the assistance of JSO.
Also, medically what is the impact of injecting someone with cough syrup--and was this done?
The syringes were oral syringes, an item commonly used for doses given to pediatric patients. In other words, the syringes are a measuring tool – and CANNOT be used for injection.  No patients were given an oral product intravenously.  No needles were involved.

The Clerk of the Court website shows Classon is scheduled for arraignment on Jan. 25.

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