An Innisfail pharmacist has lost her job and faces criminal charges amidst accusations that she stole a massive quantity of painkillers from her employer.
Innisfail RCMP were called to assist after store security from Shoppers Drug Mart investigated irregularities at the Innisfail store, where the pharmacist has worked for the past two years, as well as a store in Red Deer where she had also worked.
Thee investigations were launched when customers complained that their drugs had become less effective.
Police allege that besides filling non-existent prescriptions, the woman emptied portions of Dilaudid capsules, returning them to the shelf with 20 to 50 per cent of the contents missing. She is also accused of making false records.
Police state that a total of 14,000 Dilaudid pills were stolen from the Innisfail store over a period of 18 months.
Dilaudid is a brand name for hydromorphone hydrochloride, which is in the same class of narcotics as heroin, methadone and hydrocodone.
The suspect, whose name is withheld pending formal reading of the charges, was arrested on Wednesday and fired from her job.
She has since been released from custody and is expected to make her first court appearance in Red Deer next Thursday.
Innisfail RCMP credit Shoppers Drug Mart employees and security personnel for their diligence in detecting an alleged issue that may have passed scrutiny for an extended period of time.
Tammy Smitham, director of corporate communications for Shoppers, said on Thursday that the company has been working closely with police on the investigation and believes the tampering was isolated to a single individual.
“Our No. 1 concern is the safety and well-being of the patients at the two locations where this individual worked,” said Smitham.
She was unable to say which of the Red Deer stores had employed the accused, but that company officials will contact customers whose Dilaudid prescriptions were filled at both stores.
“We will be working to immediately contact any of the patients who may have been impacted to ensure their health and safety,” said Smitham.
There have been complaints of pharmacists diverting drugs in the past, but they are very rare, said Dale Cooney, deputy registrar for the Alberta College of Pharmacists.
Details of the Innisfail allegations have been forwarded to the college and will be investigated immediately, with the complaints director to determine what disciplinary action would need to be taken, said Cooney.
The college has the authority to take action against pharmacists where there is merit to take such action through a hearing tribunal, he said.
He said he hopes the incident will not affect the level of trust that pharmacists have earned with the people they serve.
“The public should still maintain their high level of trust in pharmacists as a whole,” said Cooney.