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Monday, September 27, 2010

Department of Justice

Acting United States Attorney Gregg L. Sullivan Eastern District of Tennessee


FORMER VA NURSE PLEADS GUILTY TO DIVERTING DRUGS

GREENEVILLE, Tenn--Bruce R. Clendenin, 58, of Greeneville, Tennessee, pleaded guilty today in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Greeneville, to a one-count information charging him with obtaining controlled substances by misrepresentation, fraud, deception and subterfuge. He was released on bond pending his sentencing hearing set for February 28, 2011, at 9:00 a.m., in United States District Court in Greeneville. He faces a term of up to four years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

A statement of facts filed in support of Clendenin’s guilty plea states that he has been licensed as a registered nurse in Tennessee since 2006, having previously been licensed in Florida, and was hired in August 2007, as a registered nurse by the James H. Quillen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center (DVAMC), Mountain Home, Tennessee.

In early June 2009, DVAMC staff learned that Clendenin was possibly diverting controlled substances. Clendenin consented to a search of his person which revealed seven patient identification armbands with bar codes as well as nine glass medication vials containing small amounts of controlled substances (hydromorphone (Dilaudid) and morphine). A review of hospital records for three months revealed 24 instances where Clendenin had removed controlled substances (including morphine, hydromorphone, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and diazepam) but did not scan in the medications as being administered to the respective patients. In addition, there were 57 other instances where Clendenin removed controlled substances and reported that they were wasted (disposed of) but did not enter any supporting information to document that the drugs were actually wasted. There were also 125 other instances discovered where Clendenin claimed that controlled substances were given to patients but in the wrong dose, and he documented that the wrong dose amounts were wasted, documented that the drugs were given by another nurse, documented that the drugs were destroyed late, or other related discrepancies. Inquiries regarding the seven patient arm bands found in Clendenin's possession revealed he had, on numerous occasions, removed controlled substances in a patient's name and scanned in the substances as being administered to the patient.

The drug review also revealed one instance in June 2009, where Clendenin withdrew hydromorphone and documented administering the drug to a patient who had been pronounced dead approximately 20 minutes before that time. The patient arm band for the deceased patient was one of the seven arm bands found on Clendenin during the consent search noted above. Similarly, nurses questioned some of the patients to whom controlled substances were reportedly administered and the patients indicated that no drugs had been administered by Clendenin as documented.

Acting U.S. Attorney Gregg Sullivan stated, “The diversion and abuse of prescription drugs is a major public health and criminal justice problem in our state. Health care professionals are particularly at risk because of the ready availability of narcotics. We strongly encourage health care professionals abusing and addicted to prescription drugs to seek treatment before they are caught diverting drugs and their substance abuse results in criminal charges.”

This prosecution was the result of an investigation by Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General and the Department of Veterans Affairs Police. Assistant U.S. Attorney Neil Smith represented the United States.

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