Medical Technology

A former nurse is sentenced to prison for using painkillers as a ploy

A registered nurse was recently sentenced to 3 years in federal prison after being convicted of charges for fraudulently obtaining and tampering with pain medicine used to treat patients with moderate to severe pain. He filed an appeal earlier this month.

In July, a federal jury convicted Nathan Pehrson, 41, of Sandy, Utah, for taking hydromorphone, a powerful schedule II narcotic, while serving as a nurse on a surgical and trauma ward of an Intermountain Healthcare facility in Salt Lake City, Utah. The jury found him guilty of diverting the drug from pre-loaded syringes for his personal use and replacing the medication with saline solution “before they were placed back into circulation for medical use by other hospital staff” and patients, according to a press release from the US Attorney’s Office in the District of Utah.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Pehrson worked for Intermountain Healthcare for 11 years, about half that time as a registered nurse. Meanwhile he was also studying at Westminster College, receiving his bachelor’s in nursing in 2013 and a master’s of science in nursing in 2018.

Pehrson’s nursing license expired in August and was surrendered as a result of the charges against him, according to the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing.

He also was convicted of making false statements to a special agent from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about his illegal activity while under investigation for his crimes. He was sentenced last month to an additional 3-year term of federal supervised release, the Department of Justice report stated.

“We hope that this sentence of three years in federal prison deters every healthcare professional from using or diverting prescription narcotics,” Acting United States Attorney Andrea T. Martinez said in the release.

The FDA also weighed in. “We will continue to protect the public health and bring to justice health care professionals who take advantage of their unique position and compromise their patients’ health and comfort by tampering with needed drugs,” said Charles L. Grinstead, special agent in charge of the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations Kansas City Field Office.

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