Innisfail pharmacist with 'abuse problem' arrested in pill tampering case

Innisfail RCMP are investigating a pharmacist who they say was stealing drugs and diluting pills.

RCMP allege woman stole or tampered with 14,000 pain pills

RCMP Cpl. Jeff Hildebrandt says it appears the pills were taken for personal use. (Neil Herland/CBC)

An Innisfail, Alta., pharmacist has been charged after police allege she stole or tampered with tens of thousands of pills.

The narcotics, a pain reliever called Dilaudid, appear to have been for personal use, say RCMP.

"We have an individual that obviously had an abuse problem," said Cpl. Jeff Hildebrandt. "Obviously, that situation got out of control for this person."

The Shopper's Drug Mart employee was confronted and fired on Wednesday. Soon after, she was arrested and later charged with fraud. More charges are expected, say police.  

Officers say the prescription drugs were taken from the store, in an Alberta town north of Calgary, over the last year and a half.

"We do believe that there's no connection to any kind of organized crime or trafficking," said Hildebrandt.

"The obvious concern for us is the safety, the risk of the public. I mean there are people who receive prescriptions that were obviously not as effective as they should have been."

Dorothy Fetch, who lives in Innisfail, said she couldn't believe it. 

"It's a small town and we don't hear about things like this happening, and I know there are drug problems everywhere but it's just not something I'm used to hearing," she said.

Fake names, fake prescriptions

The woman apparently created false entries to fill non-existing prescriptions, said Staff Sgt. Chris Matechuk says.

"Some of the activities, as well, involved removing 20 to 50 per cent of the contents and repackaging these pills for prescription," he said. She would then allegedly re-seal the medication and give it to patients.

RCMP say 14,000 pills were taken or tampered with.

The woman even faked customer names to obtain the drug, say police. 

The RCMP investigation began after reports from customers of the decreased efficacy of their medication. 

The woman has no prior criminal record. She is expected to appear in court April 10.

"Without the diligence of the Shopper’s Drug Mart employees and security personnel, the matter may have very well passed scrutiny for an extended period of time, given the unlimited access of the pharmacist in question," said RCMP in a release.

The Shopper's Drug Mart declined to comment.