A licensed practical nurse stole nearly 1,000 doses of potent painkillers and other powerful prescription drugs, taking them for her own use from the Wayzata senior residential center where she worked, according to charges filed in Hennepin County District Court.
Jennifer V. Fitting, 35, of Hopkins, was charged last week with eight counts of felony theft in connection with 26 known instances of her stealing oxycodone, morphine, tramadol, lorazepam and other drugs while on duty at Meridian Manor residential community for seniors.
Prosecutors say the thefts stretched from June 2016 until mid-February 2017, with 250 doses of the addictive painkiller oxycodone being stolen on Feb. 10 alone. An inventory taken two weeks later turned up the thefts.
The charges say Fitting admitted forging paperwork meant to verify that the drugs were being destroyed, which is the routine when a resident moves out, dies or no longer needs the medication.
Instead, the criminal complaint said, Fitting kept the drugs for herself to treat pain from foot surgery and a problem hip.
A search of her home turned up none of the drugs, the complaint said. She did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
Painkiller theft by health care workers has alarmed health and law-enforcement officials in recent years as the state's opioid epidemic has spread. A 2012 report by the Minnesota Department of Health documented more than 250 cases of prescription drugs stolen or missing from health care facilities in the prior six years. In late 2015, the agency concluded that drug theft by health care workers had become so common that it accounted for nearly one-fifth of all patient abuse cases reported by elderly Minnesotans.
In some instances, staff replaced patients' oxycodone or Vicodin with over-the-counter painkillers; in others, as in the case against Fitting alleges, they forged documents to obtain medications.
Based on state reports of elder abuse involving drug thefts, caregivers are often stealing a handful of prescription pills or maybe a few dozen. The quantity alleged in Fitting's case is rarely seen.