Drea Lynne Gibson, a 43-year-old nurse at the Plastic Surgery Center in Bellevue, WA has been sentenced to a year and a day in prison and three years of supervised release. She had previously admitting to tampering with doses of Demerol, a narcotic pain medication. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez said, “Using Demerol for herself is one thing, stealing it is another. But replacing it with something else takes it to another level. Replacing the Demerol with epinephrine shows she was willing to put other people in pain and even at risk of death to treat her own pain.”
According to filings in the case, Gibson fed her addiction by stealing glass vials of Demerol and completed records indicating the drugs were being administered to patients. Then, as her addiction worsened, Gibson refilled the ampules with saline solution, and then super-glued them back together. On multiple occasions during November, 2008, anesthesiologists at the clinic administered the tampered ampules to patients recovering from surgery under the belief that they were administering Demerol. When patients complained that their pain was not being relieved, the anesthesiologist switched pain medications and administered fentanyl.
Gibson had been a Washington State licensed registered nurse since 1995. However, in 2001 she was sanctioned by the Washington State Nursing Commission for removing a patient’s prescription for oxycodone, a Schedule II controlled substance, and attempting to fill that prescription for herself. In 2003, Gibson was hired at the Plastic Surgery Center.
National statistics showed an increasing level of unlawful drug diversion and abuse of pharmaceutical controlled substances, as well as overdoses of such drugs resulting in rising medical costs. Studies reflect that hospital admissions attributable to prescription drug abuse and overdose have increased 500 percent over the last 10 years, and are currently costing the United States more than $1 billion dollars in health care costs annually.