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Press Release

Traveling Nurse Who Worked in Roanoke Sentenced for Tampering with Fentanyl

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Virginia
Joseph Howard Admitted to Replacing Fentanyl with Saline

Abingdon, VIRGINIA – A traveling nurse, who tampered with vials of fentanyl and replaced the drug with saline, was sentenced last week in federal court to 42 months in prison, United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen announced.

Joseph Howard, 34, of Ashland, Ky., previously pleaded guilty to one count of tampering with a consumer producer that affects interstate commerce, with reckless disregard for the risk that another person will be placed in danger of death or serious injury.

“Fentanyl and other powerful opioids are being abused at epidemic rates across the country,” U.S. Attorney Cullen stated today. “Hospitals, doctor’s offices, pharmacies, and manufacturers must do everything in their power to track and control every dose of these addictive and often-abused drugs to ensure they are being used in accordance with limited prescribed uses.”

“Patients deserve to have confidence that they are receiving the proper treatment from those entrusted with providing their medical care,” said Mark S. McCormack, Special Agent in Charge, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations’ Metro Washington Field Office.  “As part of the FDA’s comprehensive work to address the opioid epidemic, the agency will continue to hold medical personnel accountable when they take advantage of their unique position and tamper with drugs needed by their patients, especially when such tampering could cause unnecessary pain and suffering.”

According to evidence presented at previous hearings by Assistant United States Attorney Randy Ramseyer, Howard worked as a traveling nurse in Roanoke between November 2017 and December 2017. During that time, the defendant tampered with vials of liquid fentanyl, extracted the fentanyl for his personal use and replaced it with saline. Howard caused the diluted vials to be available for use by patients at the hospital where he worked.

The investigation of the case was conducted by the Food and Drug Administration-OCI, the Virginia Department of Health Professions, and the Virginia State Police.  Assistant United States Attorney Randy Ramseyer prosecuted the case for the United States.

Updated February 21, 2019