Former Parker Adventist Hospital Nurse Sentenced To Federal Prison For Stealing Fentanyl Designated For Patients
DENVER – U.S. Attorney Jason R. Dunn announced that former Parker Adventist Hospital Nurse Jessica Sharman, age 36, of Arapahoe County, was sentenced today by U.S. District Court Judge Christine M. Arguello to serve 44 months for stealing fentanyl meant for Intensive Care Unit (ICU) patients at Parker Adventist. Sharman appeared at the sentencing hearing free on bond. She was ordered to report to a Bureau of Prisons facility once one is designated. During the hearing, the court recognized the seriousness of the offense and the need for deterrence of other healthcare providers in accepting the government’s sentencing recommendation.
According to the stipulated facts contained in the plea agreement, Sharman worked as a nurse for various employers until she began working in the ICU at Parker Adventist Hospital in January 2018. Soon after she started work at Parker Adventist, the defendant used an automated narcotic medication dispensing device known as a Pyxis machine to gain access to the fentanyl. Only authorized users, which includes nurses, are allowed to use the machine.
On April 20, 2018, a routine audit report of access to and utilization of controlled substances from the Pyxis machine flagged Sharman’s access as “red” for high fentanyl use and waste (the disposal of excess fentanyl following physician-ordered patient administration) for the month of March 2018. The audit for the month of February 2018 flagged Sharman’s access as “yellow,” also for high fentanyl usage. A review of the Pyxis access records showed a high number of “remove-cancel” transactions, indicating that the defendant had accessed controlled substances from a Pyxis machine but then “cancelled” the transaction, returning the drug to the locked machine.
On April 25, 2018, after substantiating the tampering concerns flagged by the audit, Parker Adventist removed all fentanyl from the ICU. On April 26, 2018, Parker Adventist employees interviewed Sharman. Based in part on that interview, it was determined that the defendant was stealing fentanyl from the hospital. She allegedly withdrew the drug from fentanyl cassettes using a sterile syringe and saline flushes. She sometimes replaced the fentanyl she stole with saline, injecting the saline back into the fentanyl cassette and returning the cassette to the Pyxis machine. Following her interview, Sharman tested positive for the use of fentanyl. The hospital terminated Sharman’s employment on April 26, 2018.
“Medical professionals who have access to opioids like fentanyl are required to make sure that this powerful medication is provided to patients and is not abused,” said U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn. “In this case a nurse at a hospital stole fentanyl for her own use. And perhaps even worse, replaced it with saline, causing unwitting patients to go without necessary medication while believing their pain was being treated. That is a crime and she has paid the price.”
“Jessica Sharman’s actions were callous and selfish. She chose to steal fentanyl from vulnerable individuals entrusted in her care and use the drugs for herself,” said DEA Denver Division Special Agent in Charge Deanne Reuter. “Sharman’s blatant disregard for the health and welfare of those under her care is an example of the detrimental effects of opioid addiction and abuse.”
“FDA will continue to aggressively pursue those health care practitioners who prey on vulnerable patients by removing their needed medications, especially opioids,” said Charles L. Grinstead, Special Agent in Charge, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations, Kansas City Field Office. “We remain committed to working with our law enforcement partners to protect the public health and bring to justice those who compromise patients’ health in this manner.”
Sharman had previously pled guilty to Tampering with a consumer product. She was first charged by Information on May 29, 2019.
This case was investigated by the FDA OCI and the DEA. The defendant is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Anna Edgar.