Dr. Sarah Jones trial told she often picked up prescriptions

The trial of a Tantallon, N.S., doctor accused of fraud and unlawful possession of powerful narcotics resumed Monday in Bridgewater with testimony from a local pharmacy manager.

'The only doctor I've ever known in my history' to pick up a prescription for patient, says pharmacy manager

Dr. Sarah Dawn Jones faces charges of fraud and unlawful possession of oxycodone. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

The trial of a Tantallon, N.S., doctor accused of fraud and unlawful possession of powerful narcotics resumed Monday in Bridgewater provincial court with testimony from a local pharmacy manager.

Dr. Sarah Jones is accused of three counts of fraud, one count of unlawful possession of oxycodone, and one count of fraudulently drawing a document related to prescriptions in the name of a patient, Merle Chase.

The charges were laid in 2016 after a police investigation into Jones's activity between January 2014 and August 2015. Jones originally faced charges of drug trafficking but those were withdrawn by the Crown.

Jones's trial ran for several days in April before resuming this week.

121 receipts

Bridgewater Superstore pharmacy manager Melinda Kerwin testified Monday that she was familiar with Jones.

The evidence given at trial Monday was that Jones's habit was to fax a copy of the prescription to the Superstore pharmacy, which would fill the order. Later the same day Jones would go to the pharmacy in person and present the original of the prescription. Only when she presented the original was she allowed to take the pills.

The Crown introduced 121 prescription receipts as evidence, which Kerwin went over in court.

"Basically the questioning was to introduce evidence as to who took possession of the prescriptions on each date we discussed," said Crown attorney Josh Bryson. "There's roughly 126 dates to go through."

Kerwin explained that in 2014 and 2015, pharmacists would typically ask the person picking up a prescription for the correct phone number listed on the patient's file and sometimes for an address or birthday.

Regulations have since become stricter and now only a person specified by the patient can pick up prescriptions. At the time, however, the pharmacy allowed Jones to pick up the pills.

'We don't know what his dose was'

Kerwin said, to her knowledge, Chase never picked up his own prescriptions and his dosage direction was "as needed."

"We don't know what his dose was," Kerwin told court. "Because she never told us."

Kerwin also testified that although doctors sometimes drop prescriptions off for patients, Jones is "the only doctor I've ever known in my history" to pick up a prescription for a patient.

Kerwin said on only one occasion did she remember Jones returning a single bottle of oxycodone pills.

Those were 80 milligram pills, and Kerwin said she remembered Jones saying they were too big for Chase to swallow. Kerwin thought it was odd that, weeks later, Jones again prescribed for the same size of pills.

'Ridiculous amounts of prescriptions'

The Crown asked Kerwin to calculate the number of pills Chase was taking per day, based on how many pills and how often Jones picked them up.

Using the pharmacy receipts entered as evidence, Kerwin calculated that at certain times Chase might have been taking 24 pills a day, and at other times 36 pills a day.

"It's ridiculous amounts of prescriptions," Kerwin said during court.

Through all this, Kerwin said she never once interacted with Chase.

"I don't even know what the man looks like," she said.

Volume of drugs concerned staff

By March 2014, Kerwin said her staff was becoming nervous about the volume of drugs Chase was getting.

Jones' chart notes on Chase show on repeated occasions pills were returned to the pharmacy, but Kerwin said she had no recollection of this happening except for one instance.

Kerwin told the court she would have known if any drugs were returned for destruction because regulations required her, as the pharmacy manager, to sign a letter to Health Canada verifying the pill return.

Trial resumes June 22

Kerwin told court Jones was prescribing many different sizes of oxycodone and OxyNEO, "mixing and matching" because Jones said she was trying to determine the right dosage.

Jones and her defence team both declined to comment.

Kerwin must finish her testimony and be cross examined when the trial resumes on June 22.

The Crown will also call its final witness on that day, the head of pharmacy for South Shore Regional Health.

About the Author

Shaina Luck


Shaina Luck covers everything from court to city council. Her favourite stories are about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Email: shaina.luck@cbc.ca