BRUNSWICK, Maine — A pharmacist working in Brunswick has been convicted of stealing drugs in connection with the theft of the prescription painkiller oxycodone and the sleep aid Ambien.
Former pharmacist John W. Underwood, of Bath, a longtime employee of Mid Coast Hospital, pleaded guilty Oct. 17 in Cumberland County Superior Court to two counts of stealing drugs after a series of thefts of oxycodone and Ambien from the hospital in 2011 and 2012, according to a Wednesday press release from Maine Attorney General Janet Mills. Underwood was the hospital’s pharmacy manager when he diverted drugs for his personal use, the release states.
Underwood was sentenced to two years in prison, with all but 14 days suspended, and two years of probation on the felony charge for stealing oxycodone. He received a concurrent sentence of 14 days imprisonment on the misdemeanor charge for stealing Ambien. Underwood also was ordered to pay $800 in fines.
Among other conditions of his probation, Underwood is prohibited from accepting any employment that would give him access to controlled substances. His license to practice as a pharmacist was revoked by the Maine Board of Pharmacy in April 2012.
“Abuse of prescription narcotics is a major public health and public safety issue in Maine,” Mills stated in the release. “We place great trust in health care professionals to not only provide appropriate care, but to also assist in eliminating the diversion of these addictive drugs to nonmedical uses. Mr. Underwood breached that trust and put the health and safety of countless patients at risk.”
The case was investigated by Detective Robert Flis of the Maine Office of Attorney General’s Healthcare Crimes Unit, and Tom Avery, investigator for the Board of Pharmacy.
Mills has called the problem of prescription drug diversion and abuse an “epidemic” in Maine.