Forensic Pharmacy Advanced Training

It may seem bizarre, even surreal, but sometimes people intentionally use pharmaceutical products to kill other people.

The murder weapons are medications that were originally obtained from a pharmacy where the intent was that they be used in drug therapy. And sometimes pharmacists can be held accountable.

About This Course

This course discusses how pharmaceutical products placed under the control of pharmacists and intended for use in therapy for patients who need them, are used instead by criminals to kill people. We focus on identifying the zone of risk for people who could be intentionally harmed by pharmaceuticals used in committing a crime, and how to develop best practices to protect patients and others from harm that can be caused by otherwise beneficial medications if they are used criminally as murder weapons. 

Elements of a crime and the pharmacist's role in detecting and preventing crimes

How pharmaceutical products have been used by notorious criminals in the commission of serial murders

Hazards that pharmaceutical products present to vulnerable persons who are in harm’s way

CPE Information

15 Hour Pharmacist CE Course

Upon successful completion of this knowledge-based CPE course, pharmacists should be able to:

  1. Describe the background of the United States criminal justice system.
  2. List the sources of law in the US system.
  3. Discuss the seven basic legal principles that underlie the commission of a crime.
  4. Describe the process for location of criminal laws in federal and state statutes.
  5. Distinguish between criminal, administrative, and civil legal proceedings.
  6. List the most common and powerful defense arguments in a criminal proceeding.
  7. Describe the role of the local police department, and the relationship of the local police department with federal law enforcement agencies.
  8. List the steps undertaken in the prosecution and defense of a criminal case.
  9. List and discuss different types of evidence that are used in a criminal case.
  10. Describe the types of crimes that have been committed by health professionals within a health care setting.
  11. Describe the crimes that have been committed by those who prepare and distribute unapproved new drugs.
  12. Discuss the avenues through which drugs can be diverted from a healthcare setting and then used as weapons to commit crimes outside a healthcare setting.
  13. List the drugs that can be used as poisons in commission of the crime of murder.
  14. Describe the balance that must be reached in the provision of necessary opioids for the treatment of chronic pain and the prevention of unintended deaths due to prescription drug abuse.
  15. Discuss the circumstances under which the commission of an error in healthcare can be viewed as a criminal act.
  16. Explain burden of proof in a criminal case.
  17. Design a risk reduction system that will detect criminal activity of healthcare personnel who intentionally use pharmaceutical products to harm patients.
  18. Describe a program that will reduce the zone of risk so that pharmaceutical products under the control of the pharmacy department are not removed from the healthcare setting and used to harm persons known to healthcare personnel.
  19. Present a seminar to health care providers on reducing the risk that pharmaceutical products will be used to intentionally harm a person as the instrumentality of a criminal act.
  20. Develop a system for detecting deadly drugs within the drug distribution system and the use of strategies that will reduce the risk of harm from these deadly drugs.
  21. Describe the emerging field of forensic pharmacy.
  22. Supervise a crime scene in which pharmaceutical homicide is suspected.

Our Forensic Pharmacy Expert

David Brushwood, RPh, JD

Professor Emeritus of Pharmaceutical 
Outcomes and Policy, 

University of Florida College of Pharmacy

Senior Lecturer, University of Wyoming

  • Case Study
Case Study
Case Study

In January 2014, a Tampa, FL man was sentenced to 14 years in prison after he illegally obtained misoprostol from a pharmacy using a forged prescription, gave the drug to his girlfriend  after he told her it was an antibiotic, and it resulted in the death of the fetus his girlfriend was carrying. The pharmacy was sued for negligence because they allegedly provided this “patient” with a bogus prescription label to help him trick his girlfriend.  

In February 2014, a Johnson City, TN pharmacist was charged with attempted murder after a nurse found him in his wife’s hospital room attempting to kill her by injecting Victoza obtained from stock within his community pharmacy. The charges were later reduced to simple assault.   

Incidents like this are uncommon, but they do happen.  Far more frequent are criminal acts committed by other health care professionals who think they can commit “the perfect crime” by intentionally overdosing a victim with a medication acquired through a pharmacy. 

A surprisingly large number of healthcare professionals have intentionally killed patients within healthcare settings. Healthcare professionals have also stolen pharmaceuticals from healthcare settings and used them to kill relatives, friends, and acquaintances outside a healthcare setting. Pharmacies have also dispensed defective drugs that have killed patients.